Airbus Airs Proposals for German Eurofighter Typhoon Development

 - November 8, 2019, 7:21 AM
Armed with loaded cannon and Iris-T missiles, a Typhoon from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 takes off from Neuburg in southern Germany, one of two Luftwaffe bases that maintain aircraft on 24/7 quick reaction alert to defend German airspace. (Photo: David Donald)

Airbus Defence and Space has fleshed out its proposals to continue the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon for the Luftwaffe with further details. Spain is also involved in the effort, which diverges to some extent from the roadmap for the UK’s Typhoons.

For Germany the development is based around two requirements: the Quadriga program to replace the Luftwaffe’s aging and technology-limited Tranche 1 Typhoons, and a subsequent need to replace the Tornado fleet. A contract for the Quadriga program is expected in early 2020, but the Tornado replacement decision has yet to be taken (the Typhoon is competing against the Boeing Super Hornet/Growler).

Quadriga encompasses 26 single-seat and seven two-seat aircraft, including two attrition replacements, with an option for five more single-seaters. If a contract is received in early 2020, the first aircraft are due for delivery in 2024 and will be built at an annual rate of between eight and 10 aircraft. They will feature an enhanced defensive aids suite and an AESA radar.

Germany and Spain have agreed to adopt the Mk1 version of the Captor E radar. This is a development that features a multi-channel receiver. The first production version of the AESA radar (for Kuwait) is known as the Mk0 (or Radar 1 Plus). In the meantime, the UK has a separate requirement for a Mk2 radar that incorporates electronic attack functions.

Airbus is anticipating a contract for the Mk1 radar around the same time as the Quadriga go-ahead. As well as equipping the new-build aircraft, the radar will be retrofitted to 110 Tranche 2/3 Typhoons in current Luftwaffe service, along with 19 Spanish Tranche 3 aircraft. Deliveries of radars are scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2022. By that time the MBDA Meteor long-range missile will be in full service. The weapon is already in Luftwaffe stock and will be issued to front-line squadrons next year. The Typhoon on offer to Switzerland is essentially similar to the Quadriga standard.

To replace the Tornados the Luftwaffe is seeking 85 aircraft to be delivered from 2030. Airbus is proposing two batches of Typhoons that will be capable of taking over all of the Tornado’s roles. The first batch of 45 aircraft would have what Airbus describes as “strategic capabilities”—in other words, the ability to carry nuclear weapons. Luftwaffe Tornados have a NATO nuclear tasking using U.S.-owned B61 tactical weapons.

A second batch of 40 Typhoons would be equipped to perform the defense-suppression/escort-jammer role, replacing the capability currently offered by the Tornado electronic combat role (ECR) variant. Kurt Rossner, Airbus’s head of Combat Air Systems, suggests that an initial ECR version of the Typhoon would be a two-seater fitted with an emitter-location system and carrying large underwing jamming/electronic attack pods. Weaponry would include air-to-air missiles and ordnance such as the MBDA Spear EW air-launched electronic attack/decoy munition. Further development could see podded elements being accommodated internally.

An ECR variant is one element of the four-nation Typhoon long-term evolution (LTE) plan, which also encompasses other elements such as new weapons and sensors, extended range, greater connectivity and operability, coordinated missions with remote carriers, and enhanced cockpit/planning systems and survivability.

Many of these elements would initiate the implementation of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) ahead of the introduction to service of the planned New Generation Fighter (NGF) around 2040. Rossner noted that LTE developments would also help to inform the UK-led Tempest program.