The UK is declaring itself to be under "no obligation" to buy any more Eurofighter Typhoons despite failing to take its full 232-aircraft quota agreed under the programme's original four-nation memorandum of understanding.
The signing of a "Tranche 3A" contract for 40 additional Typhoons on 31 July brought the UK's total offtake to 184 aircraft, of which 160 are allocated to the Royal Air Force. The remaining 24 UK-assembled fighters are being diverted to Saudi Arabia under an export arrangement.
The UK's Eurofighter workshare entitlement was calculated on the basis of its announced intention to take 232 aircraft. However, a clause in the 1997 production memorandum of understanding specified that each nation's financial liability would be "capped by a pre-defined cost ceiling, taking into account the amounts already spent", says the UK ministry of defence's integrated project team leader for Typhoon, Air Cdre Chris Bushell.
"In procuring these 40 Tranche 3 aircraft the UK will have met its commitment under the MoU," he says. "We will have fulfilled our obligation, but retain the option to purchase more aircraft downstream should we wish to."
Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have together agreed to take only 45% of their originally proposed Tranche 3 numbers (equating to 107 aircraft) under the "3A" deal, with each nation's commitment reduced "symmetrically" in line with workshare allocations. Deliveries will begin in 2013. Spain has separately agreed to take an additional five aircraft.
"This has taken close to two years to get sorted out, and certainly some intense negotiations during the last six to nine months, including personal involvement from the [defence] ministers of the four nations who had a number of meetings," says Bushell.
As part of the Tranche 3 deal, industry has committed to deliver substantial reductions in support costs, which for the UK equates to a "£900 million [$1.48 million] through-life saving", says Bushell. UK Tranche 3 aircraft will be provisioned to accommodate an active electronically scanned array radar and conformal fuel tanks, should these be required.
The Eurofighter consortium is supplying parts for a further 48 Typhoons to be assembled in Saudi Arabia under the terms of the UK-brokered export deal.
Seven Tranche 2 Typhoons have been delivered to the RAF to date. Meanwhile two aircraft have been delivered to Saudi Arabia and a further six are being prepared at BAE's Warton factory for handover to the kingdom later this year.