The two leading customers for the Eurofighter have different strategies to prepare their pilots for frontline operations with the new-generation strike aircraft


As negotiations continue on a Tranche 2 production order for the Eurofighter Typhoon, initial deliveries are enabling partners in the four-nation programme to begin introducing the new-generation strike aircraft and to define their future requirements for the type. The project's two lead partners, the UK and Germany, are spearheading this process with differing levels of industry support, while Italy and Spain are also ramping up training on the type.


With its millions of lines of software code, voice recognition capabilities and sophisticated weapon system, the Eurofighter poses a significant challenge for the partner air forces  -  how to prepare for operations with an aircraft so technologically in advance of their current training systems?


The Typhoon entered service with the UK Royal Air Force at BAE Systems' Warton manufacturing plant last December, under an innovative 18-month training package dubbed Case White. Representing the closest relationship there has ever been between the service and its leading industrial supplier, this support service framework has forced disparate cultures to come together to ensure the fighter will be ready to deploy to its first main operating base on time.


Case White delivers


The purpose of Case White is to support the Typhoon until the aircraft's move to RAF Coninsgby in July 2005 and until the type can be deployed overseas in support of NATO commitments. The BAE-led project was contracted to provide 1,300 flight hours from Warton, enabling the instruction of 16 pilots: six from the RAF's 17 (R) Squadron operational evaluation unit (OEU) and 10 from its 29 (R) Sqn operational conversion unit (OCU). Initially scheduled to start in July 2002, the package also covers the instruction of 190 RAF engineers, including 60 who will work on the aircraft at Warton. The first class of 30 will complete their training by mid-year, having started work last December.


BAE and RAF personnel operate in combined shifts under the agreement, which also incorporates support by Rolls-Royce for the aircraft's Eurojet EJ200 engines. The use of RAF engineers to provide around half of the operation's staffing saves money on the contract and allows the service to gain valuable knowledge prior to the move to Coningsby, says Wg Cdr "Geordie" Evans, engineering officer for Case White and senior engineering officer for 17 Sqn. BAE personnel will continue to provide support once at the RAF base, where they will manage a ground training facility.


Case White will be conducted using 11 aircraft from the UK's initial production order for 55 Typhoon F2 fighters and T1 trainers. Nine Tranche 1, Batch 1 aircraft will be used for flight trials, with another to support ground training activities. The last - the only Batch 2 instrumented series production aircraft - will be retained by BAE to support continued development and testing of the Typhoon weapon system. Six aircraft have been accepted so far, but only five of these have flown, with the other awaiting reference data to verify its software.


Since December, 17 Sqn's six pilots have all completed conversion to the type after each logging 12 sorties totalling around 15 hours. The first instructor pilots to convert to the type from the RAF's 29 Sqn OCU have also started training. Despite programme delays having resulted in fewer aircraft than anticipated being available at this stage, the type's sortie generation rate has been dramatically higher than forecast.  Some 213 sorties had been flown by 27 May, against an original goal of 190 using a full complement of aircraft.


"Aircraft serviceability is outstanding - way beyond our wildest dreams," says Evans. "Once on the flight line, it flies 99.9% of the time." However, he notes the aircraft has only limited radar and no defensive aids subsystem (DASS), forward-looking infrared or sensor fusion capability - items which will be added through a Batch 2 upgrade set to begin during September.


Current activities undertaken by the OEU include three-ship flights under the "Largan" trial radar works package, now more than 50% complete. This uses the aircraft's radar for air-to-air operations, and will enable the RAF to transition to more tactical work, says Wg Cdr David Chan, officer commanding 17 Sqn. Meanwhile the Typhoon will pass through military aircraft release approvals using a mixture of RAF and BAE pilots acting as a combined operational test and evaluation unit.


"We've learnt a lot very fast, but still have a mountain to climb," says Chan. Backing the Case White mechanism, he says the unit will go to Coninsgby "when we have learned enough to stand on our own". With the anticipated flying rate for Case White now being "over-achieved" by around 15%, Archie Neill, BAE's chief flying instructor and entry-into-service manager for Case White, says the scheme could be shortened, or expanded to incorporate additional flying hours to better meet RAF training requirements. "Lots of the 16 pilots were to be trained towards the end of the 18 months, but Strike [Command] is now willing to have more earlier," he says. "The flying rate will increase, [but] we must find the right balance between operational test and evaluation, OCU and currency issues."


It will be well into the next decade before the UK possesses a true multirole capability with numerous Typhoon squadrons, says Chan, who believes joint exercises with key allies such as France, the Netherlands and the USA will be vital in developing the aircraft as a frontline asset. "We're not in a short-term business - you can't go from a standing start to a full sprint," he says. The RAF will eventually receive 232 Typhoons for operations from its bases at Coningsby, Leeming and Leuchars.


Going it alone


While it followed a similar path to the UKat first, the German air force on 30 April moved its first production Eurofighters to Laage airbase in the country's north, just nine months after starting training activities from EADS's Manching manufacturing plant in Bavaria with four pilots and 10 technicians. In contrast to the UK's current high reliance on industry support, Germany's training activities at Laage will be supported by a team of only around 15 EADS engineering staff.


Germany launched a six-month operational evaluation phase with its aircraft on 17 May, involving a mixture of OEU and OCU instructor pilots, the latter having started training last September. Headed by Wg Cdr Bernhard Tantarn, this work will prepare the Eurofighter for squadron service and develop the air force's basic training set-up for the type.


The service has so far accepted eight two-seat aircraft, four of which are currently cleared for flight. Three await approval to join the operational evaluation phase, while the eighth was delivered to the service's engineering school at Kaufbeuren in February. The first of 28 single-seat Eurofighters to be delivered under Germany's Tranche 1 production order will be handed over later this year.


The air force's first 10 instructors will operate in conjunction with the four-man OEU for the next six months, before reverting to act as the OCU responsible for training Germany's next 21-24 instructor pilots. The unit's first two courses will take between six and nine months each to complete, and cover the instruction of around seven to nine pilots per intake. Germany's first new trainee pilots for the Eurofighter will begin instruction in 2006, when the air force's first operational wing will be established.


Current test activity is centred on building basic training procedures, with the next phase to introduce enhanced capabilities such as the aircraft's radar, DASS, and Link 16 datalink. The OEU is also conducting radar cross-section test flights against the German air force's MiG-29 fighters, all 23 of which will be transferred to Poland next month. "We are getting in as much flying against them while we still have them", says Tantarn. Additional trials work to take place later this year will also build up the aircraft's inflight refuelling system.


German air force Eurofighter pilots draw on diverse experience in flying types such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, MiG-29 and even Canadian Forces Boeing CF-18s. Its OEU comprises two pilots drawn from the MiG-29 community, one from the Panavia Tornado ECR and one from the Phantom. The introduction of the Eurofighter represents a new challenge for the air force, which currently flies mainly twin-seat fighters. As well as Laage, Germany's 180 planned aircraft will operate from Bchel, Neuburg, Norvenich and Wittmund.


Building up


The Italian air force received its first production Eurofighter into squadron service at Grosetto airbase on 23 March, one month after receiving one twin-seat trainer to assist with the instruction of maintenance and support personnel at its Cameri site. In addition to these locations, Italy's 121 Eurofighters will also operate from the air force's Cervia, Gioia del Colle and Trapani bases.


The first of Spain's 87 production aircraft will be delivered for squadron service at Moron airbase before year end. One aircraft is already at Albacete airbase for personnel training.


Afour-nation contract for the production of 236 Tranche 2 Eurofighters could be signed around July's Farnborough air show in the UK. The four partner companies behind the project are believed to have guaranteed some €200 million ($240 million) in savings over the remainder of the programme through planned improvements in industrial processes.





Source: Flight International