Good and Bad News for the Eurofighter Program

 - October 12, 2017, 9:48 AM
A Eurofighter Typhoon at Warton in the UK, where production is slowing despite a possible new order from Qatar. (Photo: BAE Systems)

Qatar has signaled its intent to buy 24 Eurofighter Typhoons, and negotiations with a team led by Eurofighter partner BAE Systems are under way. But because of uncertainty about the timing of their conclusion, and a lack of other orders, the British company has announced a slowdown of Typhoon production at its Warton factory in the UK, and job losses. Meanwhile, a legal dispute with Austria continues over its acquisition of 15 Eurofighters 14 years ago. 

BAE Systems said that Qatar had signed a Statement of Intent with the UK Ministry of Defence last month for the 24 Typhoons, plus a buy of six Hawk advanced jet trainers. Some years ago, Qatar was expected to buy 18 Hawks. It currently flies just 18 combat jets—Mirage 2000-5s. But the emirate has already ordered 24 Dassault Rafales and is negotiating for up to 72 Boeing F-15Es. It will therefore have to rapidly expand its fighter pilot training program, or employ expatriate pilots, if all these aircraft are to be properly manned.

Meanwhile, Austria is planning to phase out its fleet of 15 Eurofighters in 2020, because their cost of operation is too great and uncertain, according to the country’s defense minister, Hans Peter Doskozil. The Tranche 1 aircraft were delivered between 2005 and 2009. In public statements last February, Doskozil also accused Eurofighter and part-shareholder Airbus Defence & Space of fraud and deception over the Eurofighter acquisition, which was agreed in 2003, and claimed damages of up to €1.1 billion.

Last month, Airbus Defence & Space delivered a stinging rebuke to the Austrian government over the accusations. “Eurofighter clearly won the tender both technically and commercially,” Airbus said. The Saab Gripen was the other contender for the Austrian contract. Airbus also rejected Austria’s contention that it had not delivered on its offset obligations. The Austrian claims “appear highly obtruse and politically motivated,” Airbus said in a legal submission to the Vienna public prosecutor.