Partner nations will tailor their individual requirements

A key effort to integrate precision-guided weapons with the Eurofighter Typhoon is evolving to allow the programme's four partner nations to tailor "weapons packages" that meet individual requirements. The Enhanced Operating Capability (EOC) programme is also expected to be renamed as part of a wider effort to field new systems on the Tranche 2 standard of Typhoon, say industry sources. The UK, for example, is starting to refer to the effort as a future capabilities programme.

The integration and clearance of smart weapons for the Typhoon will cost "several hundred million pounds", with success considered crucial to developing the aircraft's multirole capabilities. Under the emerging plans, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK will be able to pick the weapons they want to integrate over the life of the programme, rather than be forced to take the full suite of software and weapon clearances.

The four partners' air forces are expected to opt for GPS- and laser-guided bombs, but have differing requirements for stand-off missiles. Italy and the UK must integrate MBDA's Storm Shadow, while Germany will field the Taurus Systems KEPD 350. Spain has yet to select a cruise missile design for its Typhoons. While all four partner nations will integrate MBDA's Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (AAM), only three – Germany, Italy and Spain – will add BGT's IRIS-T short-range AAM.

Formal talks between the Eurofighter partner governments and industry began early this year after the December 2004 signing of a ?14 billion ($17.5 billion) Eurofighter Tranche 2 Supplement 3 contract for 236 aircraft. Matching the air forces' military requirements with the four nations' government funding approval procedures is at the heart of the contractual process, say industry sources.

Germany, Italy and the UK have yet to formally agree all their funding for the EOC project, and the UK also wants an up-front investment for an assessment phase to "de-risk" the programme. "We want an adequate assessment phase to allow an orderly progression of the programme. We are still in negotiations, so we can't commit to any dates," says the UK Ministry of Defence.

Eurofighter hopes talks will be concluded "in the near future". But while some sources are optimistic of a deal by October/November, BAE Systems believes a contract is "not expected this year".

Eurofighter says issues involved in agreeing the EOC contract are less challenging than those with the Supplement 3 contract, which threatened production.


Source: Flight International