Enzo Casolini took the helm as chief executive of the four-nation Eurofighter industrial consortium on 30 April, and was plunged straight into complex negotiations for Tranche 3 production of the type for Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. A former Italian air force officer, he joined from Alenia Aeronautica’s Military Air Systems business unit.

When do you expect a Tranche 3 production contract to be signed? And will it be split into two phases, as previously offered?

The complete tranche was split into two. For Tranche 3A the total number of aircraft will be 112: 40 for the UK, Italy 21, 30 for Germany and the rest [20] for Spain. The 40 UK aircraft are composed of 16 new-build, and 24 which are replacements for the Saudi [Arabian] contract*. This was the decision from the nations, and we as industry accepted this.

* Riyadh’s 72-strong Typhoon order includes 24 aircraft diverted from Tranche 2 production for the UK Royal Air Force. Replacements had originally been slated for manufacture at the end of the current programme phase.

The cost of supporting the Eurofighter has been a sticking point for the launch nations. Can you meet their current demands to reduce lifecycle costs?

This weapon system is rather new in service; sometimes the reality is a little bit different from the specification. In all of the nations there was an exercise to try to make the service of the weapon system more cost effective. This was started many months ago, and the signature of Tranche 3 was a good occasion to try to formalise this. They asked for a through-life cost reduction of 50%. With the new way of making in-service support – partnering between air force and industry – and a lot of other improvements that we can make, we believe that this is achievable. We as industry have committed to achieve something that in practice some nations are already equipped to do.

Enzo Casolini Eurofighter 
© Eurofighter

Will there be a production gap between Tranche 2 and Tranche 3A?

With the timescale that we have at the moment, the real chances are that we won’t have this kind of breach in the production. We can sign the contract before the summer break, and before the timescale to launch the long-lead item production. We are all aiming for that. We are talking about the end of June; that was more or less the agreement that the undersecretaries [of defence] made when they met in Berlin. If it’s the middle of July then it’s the same.

Switzerland is expected to choose between the Typhoon, Dassault Rafale or Saab Gripen NG around January. How important is the outcome to Eurofighter, and where are your other current export opportunities?

To be really honest, Switzerland is a must for the Eurofighter. We believe that this is something that at the end we will have in our export market. We are waiting for flight evaluations in India early next year or the late part of this year. We are working for Romania as well, Japan is a very important one, and we also have ongoing Greece and Turkey. Then there are some other prospects. I cannot say anything regarding Oman*. This is something that at the moment we don’t have visibility of.

* The UK has held government-to-government discussions with Oman with regard to a Typhoon sale, but Dassault and Saab are also eyeing its requirement to replace the Sepecat Jaguar.

An end to production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 and the high cost of preparing an export model look likely to open a contest in Japan. Will your industrial preparations follow the model of the Norway campaign, where Eurofighter placed contracts ahead of a decision?

If the campaign is free from the F-22 I believe that the chances of the Eurofighter will be much more. But this is subject to many other conditions, like technology transfer. We are discussing some possibility to very heavily involve the local industry into the programme, but Norway was a special case in my opinion. I don’t think that we’re in a position to make this kind of offer to other countries.

Are you worried that the current global economic downturn could make nations reconsider their need for new fleets of fighter aircraft?

We are speaking about very strategic assets. There are areas in which we are marketing Eurofighter in which the necessity of a real air-superiority or swing-role aircraft is a must: independent of the economic conditions. This is not something that you buy tomorrow – it takes at least 24 or maybe even 36 months before you pick a weapon system. So we hope we can beat the economic crisis.

Rival products like the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen NG are being offered with active electronically scanned array radars. Will the Eurofighter gain this capability in Tranche 3A?

This is part of the enhancement path that the consortium, with the will of the nations, created regarding the continued growth capability of the aircraft. We are scheduling some specific meetings after the signature of Tranche 3A, and we are evaluating with the nations a possible path for introducing an E-scan in the Eurofighter fleet. E-scan is a must for us, especially for the export market.

How big a challenge do you believe it will be to negotiate Tranche 3B production with your European customers?

Can I answer when I have signed Tranche 3A? The Tranche 3B commitment will be made in almost two years time from now. For the moment we speak about Tranche 3A only.

How will your management style differ to that of your predecessor, Aloysius Rauen, and do you see the need for organisational changes at Eurofighter?

I was a former [Italian] air force officer – many years ago unfortunately – so my special feeling is to try to reach much more customer satisfaction. We are trying to become closer to the needs of the four core nation air forces, and of course Austria and Saudi Arabia. I will see with the partner companies how to adjust the organisation, but for the moment I’m not going to change anything.

 Eurofighter Italy - Joerg AirSpace
© Joerg/Paris Air Show 2009 gallery on flightglobal.com/AirSpace

Source: Flight Daily News