Eurofighter's partners and suppliers mull findings of study into future roles, operational needs and upgrades

Eurofighter companies have received a report outlining the process for further developing the fighter through production and to provide the basis for in-service upgrades throughout the aircraft's service life.

Leon Skorczewski, Eurofighter capability enhancement director, says the aircraft's service life extends to "2040 and beyond", and that "there has to be a flexible growth path".

The four partner companies - Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, EADS Casa and EADS Germany - sanctioned a 12-month study last May. The partners contributed, as did the consortia supplying the radar, defensive aids, engine and infrared search and track sensor. The four partner air forces and potential export customers also helped.

The partners are expected to respond to the report recommendations "very quickly", as some actions will need implementing as early as possible on the production line.

The study considered likely operational needs, future roles, a development route and what needs to be done in the short term to prepare the fighter for later upgrades. Changes would remain within the current systems architecture and aircraft configuration, says Skorczewski.

Eurofighter manager product development Achim Aehig says the technology is best inserted as part of the pre-planned production blocks. Eurofighter production is divided into three tranches, subdivided into blocks. Block 1 aircraft will be delivered from later this year while Block 2 will follow in 2004. This approach continues through Tranche 2 and 3.

"A far-sighted technology implementation plan is needed," says Aehig. For instance, definition for Block 8, due to enter production in 2006, is taking place simultaneously with initial technology acquisition work for Block 20/25, which will not enter service until around 2013.

One initiative is to introduce the "hooks and handles" for future upgrades in the production line as early as possible. Building-in upgrade provision on the line is cheap whereas retrofitting the fleet is expensive, says Skorczewski.

The wing has already been strengthened so that all aircraft are delivered with the capability for heavy air-to-ground weapons, which will not be introduced until 2006.

Source: Flight International