Typhoon reaches 5,000-hour milestone; delayed Tranche 2 production begins
Following its introduction into service with the four Eurofighter partner air forces–Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom–in spring 2004, the service Typhoon fleet has passed 5,000 hours of flight. By the end of October the manufacturers’ development aircraft had also racked up more than 4,000 hours, so that the combined fleet is rapidly approaching the 10,000 mark.
Seven development batch aircraft were produced, one of which was lost in a crash in November 2002, followed by five instrumented production aircraft, which are owned by the partner air forces, but are retained by the manufacturers for further trials. By the end of last year, 30 production aircraft were in air force service, primarily for operational evaluation and instruction, including maintenance training.
Today 59 Typhoons have been delivered to the customers and preparations are well advanced for the aircraft to become operational in 2006. Italy plans to be first, with Typhoons scheduled to stand an air defense alert beginning in January, which was the original date for an initial operating capability. The other three operators are due to go “live” in the summer.
Meanwhile, following the delayed Tranche 2 contract, BAE Systems has begun the assembly of the first aircraft at its plant in Samlesbury, UK. Spigot frames were loaded into the assembly jigs to enable the construction of the first forward fuselage section to begin. By the end of 2005 eight Tranche 2 fuselage sections are to have begun assembly.
Samlesbury expects to deliver the first fuselage section to the nearby Warton final assembly site in October 2006, where it will be mated with other subassemblies to become aircraft BS037, a single-seater destined for the Royal Air Force.