Eurofighter Tranche 3B Negotiations Begin, While Upgrades Continue
The Eurofighter consortium in May submitted a proposal for the final batch of Eurofighters to be built for the four partner nations under the original contract. Tranche 3 was to have been contracted as a single batch, but was split in half to appease budget-cut-hungry politicians. Now the fight begins for the final 124 aircraft in Tranche 3B. Eurofighter is seeking a decision by the end of next year, which will allow production to run on seamlessly from the end of Tranche 3A. Currently Typhoon production is running at its peak rate of 60 aircraft per year.
In the meantime, early production aircraft built in Blocks 1 and 2 are going through the R2 upgrade process that brings them to Block 5 standard. RAF aircraft are being modified at BAE Systems' Warton plant in Lancashire, England, which has just passed the halfway milestone, having completed 22 of the 43 conversions.
Under the R2 upgrade, the aircraft are receiving structural upgrades (notably in the fin-tip area), a revised fuel system with enhanced transfer rates, new software and precision air-to-ground capability. A Block 1 aircraft takes around a year to modernize, while Block 2 aircraft require around seven months. The entire process is due to be completed by the end of 2012.