Eurofighter Upgrades On Firmer Footing

Farnborough Air Show » 2012
July 13, 2012, 9:13 AM

Boosted by a visit from British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, yesterday Eurofighter described an upgrade path for the Typhoon that finally appears to be on a firm footing. “The integration of the Meteor missile, an electronically scanned radar, enhancements of the defensive aids system…would all boost the world-beating capabilities of this fantastic aircraft. This progress is good for industry, export customers and the RAF,” the prime minister commented.

Eurofighter chief executive officer Enzo Casolini reported that the four partner nations had issued a request for quotations (RFQ) on the e-scan version of the Captor radar earlier this month. The consortium would respond by October and a contract would be signed by mid-2013. Test flights could follow by the end of that year, leading to service entry in 2015, he said. The industry partners and the Euroradar consortium have been pre-funding the development.

The Captor-E will feature mechanical repositioning of the antenna for enhanced performance, as previously shown in model form. But according to Berndt Wuensche, chairman of the Eurofighter supervisory board, the double swashplate mounting has been dropped in favor of a single swashplate solution. However, he hinted that the consortium would price both options when it responds to the RFQ.

Casolini said a contract to integrate the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile would be in place by the end of the year. The consortium was proposing a mid-2015 target for operational clearance, he added. The latest edition of Eurofighter’s in-house magazine gives mid-2016 as the target date.

There was much talk of the complicated nomenclature by which various software and hardware enhancements are described. In summary, they have recently included the helmet-mounted sight–“an enormous step,” according to BAE Systems chief test pilot Mark Bowman–as well as display improvements and MIDS enhancements.

Bowman said the Typhoon has “started to move forward into a true multi-role capability.” However, operational clearance of the long-awaited full integration of dual-mode laser/GPS-guided bombs (EGBU-16 or Paveway IV, with onboard designation from Litening III pods) is apparently still 18 months away. No one mentioned the Storm Shadow or Taurus cruise missiles or the Brimstone close-support weapon, but the Eurofighter magazine promises integration of the former “by 2015,” with the latter following. 

The previously slow pace of upgrades has dented the jet’s export prospects. Eurofighter officials still talk of making a revised offer to India should negotiations for the Dassault Rafale falter. The Typhoon is a contender for the 60-aircraft Korean Fighter Program III. The consortium has made generous technology transfer and coproduction offers in an attempt to boost the Typhoon’s chances against the front-running U.S. candidates: the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Malaysia was also mentioned, even though that country has not confirmed a budget for a new fighter buy.

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