Spain Buys More Typhoons to Begin Hornet Replacement

 - June 24, 2022, 5:42 AM
The EdA is approaching the 20th anniversary of Typhoon operations. The primary mission for the new aircraft will be air defense of the Canary Ialnds. (Photo: Copyright Eurofighter - Miguel Ángel Blázque)

Eurofighter and its partner engine provider, Eurojet Turbo, have received a contract to build 20 more Typhoon fighters for Spain. The contract was signed during this week's ILA air show in Berlin by the CEOs of the two industrial consortia, Carlo Mancusi and Gerhard Baehr, respectively, as well as Miguel Ángel Pérez, general manager of the NATO EF2000 and Tornado Development, Production and Logistics Management Agency (NETMA) that is procuring the aircraft on Spain’s behalf. 

“Today’s announcement is great news for many reasons, particularly though because it signals the continued commitment to the future of Eurofighter Typhoon from one of the four core partner nations,” said Mancusi. “The order also highlights the current and future strength of the program—which will ensure Eurofighter continues as the backbone of European air defense for many years to come—as well as representing welcome support for the European aerospace industry.”

Known in Spain as Project Halcón, the Typhoon buy will raise Spain’s fleet to 90 aircraft. Valued at €2.043 billion ($2.15 billion), the project was approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers on December 14 last year, and includes the 20 aircraft, eight spare EJ200 engines, a simulator, and support services. The first of the new aircraft is due to be delivered in 2026, with industrial work secured until 2030. Although manufacture will be conducted across the four Eurofighter partner nations, the Spanish aircraft will be assembled and tested at the Airbus plant in Getafe in Madrid’s southern suburbs.

Spain’s new Typhoons will be similar to the 38 Project Quadriga Tranche 4 aircraft ordered by Germany in November 2020 as replacements for older Tranche 1 aircraft. They will feature the same ECRS Mk1 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar initially developed by Hensoldt. Spain’s Indra joined the radar program as a development partner in July 2021. The Halcón aircraft will comprise 16 single-seaters and four two-seaters.

The 20 new aircraft for the Ejército del Aire (EdA, Spanish air force) are slated to join Ala (wing) 46 at Gando air base, which also serves as the main civil airport for Gran Canaria island in the Atlantic Ocean. The wing currently hosts a single squadron (Escuadrón 462) equipped with upgraded former U.S. Navy F/A-18A Hornets delivered in the 1990s. Two further EdA squadrons with Ala 12 fly the Hornet—in this case Spain’s original Hornets upgraded to EF-18M/BM standard—from Torrejón, near Madrid. No decision regarding their replacement has been announced.

Locally designated C.16 (single-seater) and CE.16 (two-seater), the Eurofighter entered EdA service in 2003, and now flies with two squadrons within Ala 14 at Albacete, and three within Ala 11 at Morón near Sevilla. They have taken part in NATO air policing missions over the Baltic states and, more recently, over the Black Sea.

Rather than replace its early Tranche 1 jets, the EdA has opted to upgrade them. The service’s Centro Logístico de Armamento y Experimentación (CLAEX) has been working with Airbus to develop the new CM02+ software package. This provides for a range of new capabilities, including the automatic targeting of air-to-surface weapons using the newly-integrated Litening III targeting pod.