How can the Rafale be produced–and offered for export–at an economic price when the production rate is only about one aircraft per month? Official French statistics give a unit production cost of only ?64- to ?70 million in 2008 prices, depending on variant, excluding amortization of development costs, but including value-added tax of 19.6 percent (which would not be payable on export aircraft).
Eurofighter hopes that the four partner nations will agree the technical specification for an active array radar for the Typhoon by year-end. To date, only a demonstration model of the E-scan Captor radar has flown on the combat jet.
The Eurojet EJ200 that powers the Eurofighter achieved a milestone earlier this month when the first engine to be completed to the full operational clearance standard surpassed 1,000 on-wing hours. Engine number EN1030 was built by Rolls-Royce at Filton and was delivered to the UK Royal Air Force in 2003. It has subsequently flown in two Typhoon aircraft stationed at RAF Coningsby without the need for any unscheduled maintenance.
The strategic importance of active array airborne radar technology in Europe cannot be understated, according to EADS Defence Electronics (Hall 2 Stand A151). The company has invested heavily in advanced transmit/receive (T/R) modules that have a variety of applications. The advantages of using T/R modules for airborne fire control, as well as airborne and ground-based surveillance are well recognized.
The four Eurofighter partner nations (Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), reached an agreement early this month on a course of action concerning the third tranche of Eurofighter production. Tranche 3 covers the final 236 aircraft of the 620-aircraft umbrella contract.
The four partner nations in Eurofighter have agreed to delay until 2015 the introduction of the Meteor, the advanced rocket-ramjet beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed by MBDA. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is managing the development of Meteor, and is the only country to have committed to production so far. However, the MoD told the UK National Audit Office that it was falling into line with Germany, Italy and Spain.
Saab reacted with vigor to a statement by the Norwegian government that the Gripen fighter was inferior to the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF in most aspects of performance–and was also more expensive. Norway had been evaluating the Gripen NG (New Generation) as an alternative to the JSF, and Saab had high hopes of launching the NG version with the help of its Scandinavian neighbor.
As negotiations continue between Eurofighter and the four European partner nations over the Tranche 3 buy, reports are proliferating that Italy and the UK are trying to offload their previously planned purchases to third parties. British newspapers have reported that Oman might take 24 Typhoons and Saudi Arabia up to 48 more, adding to the 72 that the Kingdom has already purchased (the first of which flew recently and is shown above).
Eurofighter CEO Aloysius Rauen made a strong plea here yesterday for the four partner nations–the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain–to close the deal for 236 more Typhoon combat jets. “My highest goal is to ensure the continuity of production. That way we avoid extra cost,” he said. Rauen confirmed that the UK and Italy have requested information on what it would cost to buy fewer airplanes–or none at all.
Although India’s 126-aircraft requirement is the main prize for the world’s fighter manufacturers, major procurement decisions in Brazil and Switzerland are expected to be made long before Delhi makes its choice.