Saudi Arabia and the UK have already concluded the huge contract for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets that has been in negotiation for 18 months, informed sources told Aviation International News yesterday. The deal will be worth about $16 billion for the airframes alone.
Eurofighter’s first export sale–to Austria–has not been a happy experience, although the company has met all its schedule and performance commitments to date. The first of 18 aircraft is already flying, the second will fly soon, there are four more in final assembly and parts for the other 12 are already in production. The first Austrian pilots have been trained on the aircraft in Germany.
Eurofighter GmbH has finally been empowered to write real subcontracts with penalty clauses for Typhoon production with the four partner airframe companies (Alenia, BAE Systems, EADS-Germany and EADS-Spain) that are also its shareholders. “It’s a revolution! We’re becoming a normal type of business now,” Aloysius Rauen, the CEO of Eurofighter, told Aviation International News here yesterday.
South Africa’s Denel Optronics has been awarded a multi-million dollar production order for optical helmet tracker systems (HTS) to equip the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter. The deal represents the latest South African investment by BAE Systems through its Defense Industrial Participation program, which arose from South Africa’s decision to modernize and right-size its air force with 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers and 28 Gripen fighters.
MBDA, the missile manufacturer owned by BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica, has appointed Antoine Bouvier as its new chief executive. He replaces Marwan Lahoud. Bouvier was most recently chief executive officer of EADS Astrium Satellites, a post he took up in 2002, and before that he held senior positions at ATR culminating in his becoming chief executive in 1998.
In the fighter aircraft business, there’s no substitute for combat experience, if you want to impress potential customers. The Dassault Rafale has now dropped bombs in anger as part of NATO’s stabilization effort in Afghanistan.
As the Paris Air Show opens, UK-based BAE Systems, amidst ongoing allegations of corruption regarding its dealings with Saudi Arabia, has taken steps to open itself to investigation by an independent committee while in the U.S. Congressional committees recently lifted blocks on some arms transfer requests by BAE North America.
Training pilots to fly combat jets is an expensive proposition. A proposal by European air chiefs to cut costs by combining forces has made only slow progress. However, two well established multinational training programs are readily available in North America. Meanwhile, “downloading” and “contractorization” are the prevailing buzzwords, as all air forces try to rationalize their flight training systems.
The U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program represents an important opportunity not only for large Italian aerospace companies, but also for medium-size firms that are playing a significant role in developing the F-35 Lightning. Among these is Milan-based Aerea, whose engineers are directly involved in the aircraft mission equipment integrated project team (IPT) at Lockheed Martin’s main facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Still eagerly awaiting signs of lasting recovery from its three-year slump, the world’s aerospace industry will be looking to Singapore’s biennial airshow to deliver more of the sort of upbeat activity levels reported at the Dubai show staged in December. Asian Aerospace 2004 (February 24 to 29) will be viewed as a particularly important indicator of the health of the air-transport industry in the Asia/Pacific region.