Typhoon Numbers Traded To Secure a Deal
Aviation Week, 24.03.2009
The four Eurofighter nations will likely halve their next order for the Typhoon combat aircraft. Expected to be included in the U.K. numbers will be Royal Air Force aircraft diverted to meet a Saudi Arabian order as part of its commitment—a precedent that other partners will also be able to follow.

Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. are in the final throes of Tranche 3 negotiations, with further meetings expected by the end of this month. Failure to secure a deal shortly means a gap between production batches is increasingly likely, with an unwelcome impact on cost. Some long-lead items, not least of all for the aircraft engines, are already late in being ordered if the Tranche 3 production startup is to be met.

The Tranche 3 run was originally meant to total 236 aircraft for the four nations. Funding pressures, and a shift in requirements, mean not all partners will take the previously anticipated total number of Typhoons.

Splitting production into two batches, Tranche 3A and 3B, is key to moving ahead, say military officials and industry executives involved in the program. The Tranche 3A order may cover 110 aircraft, including 40 for the RAF. The U.K. originally signaled it would take 88. This number, however, could well include the 24 originally due to be delivered to the RAF as part of its second tranche order, but shifted to meet part of a 72-aircraft order from Saudi Arabia. The first aircraft is expected to be handed over to Riyadh in June.

Discussions are also understood to be continuing between the U.K. and Saudi Arabia on a further purchase of 40-48 aircraft. This order could be used to meet the U.K.’s Tranche 3B number. Aircraft and powerplant final assembly of the remaining 48 aircraft from the first order will be carried out in country, as would any follow-on procurement.

The partner nations are also asking for life-cycle cost reductions. Work is already underway in a number of areas. They have tasked Eurojet to consider engine enhancements to reduce the overall lifetime cost on the aircraft. This work is due to conclude by midyear. The overall target is to cut life-support costs for the Typhoon by up to 30% using a joint air force/industry approach.

Continuing with Tranche 3 by splitting the order also would allow the partner nations to sidestep issues of cancellation penalties, program restructuring costs and industry workshare.

Germany and Spain publicly maintain they will complete the acquisition of all the aircraft for which they have subscribed under the “umbrella contract” (180 for Germany and 87 for Spain). London had originally signed up for a total of 232 and Rome, 121.

A decision on Tranche 3B could be deferred several years and would be influenced by the further export success of the aircraft. Internal Eurofighter studies suggest a potential export market for 150-200 Tyhpoons, and orders could be used to offset reductions in numbers among the four partner nations. Some industry executives remain sceptical that the U.K. will take any more aircraft for the RAF beyond Tranche 3A.

Italy is looking at the possibility of swapping out Tranche 1 aircraft from its inventory—for export sale—and to replace these with Tranche 3 versions. Romania is a potential customer for 24 ex-Italian air force Tranche 1 aircraft, while Bulgaria may present another opportunity. The likely mechanism for any deal would see the Italian air force sell T1 aircraft to Alenia Aeronautica, which would then sell them under a government-to-government framework. Notionally, such a scheme could provide the air force with a way to field an all-T2/T3 Typhoon fleet at a reduced cost.

One particularly sensitive area is that of pricing. While pursuing a split purchase, the partner governments still want a unit cost based on a 236-aircraft run. Industry is arguing that either the governments need to commit to substantially more than the 110 aircraft of Tranche 3A or accept that prices should reflect the actual number of aircraft being purchased.

A further area yet to be resolved is drawing a road map for the introduction of an active, electronically scanned array radar. The availability of an AESA will be a key factor in some export campaigns, including to India, while the RAF is also eager to secure an upgrade path.

Levels of support for an AESA to replace the mechanically scanned Captor differ among the partners. Italy is not particularly keen at present, since the radar would not likely be available until late T3A aircraft, and the country is disinclined to operate two Typhoon standards.

Meanwhile, the U.K. has been supporting two AESA research areas—a collaborative effort with the Typhoon partners and a national program, with elements of an AESA radar flown on a Tornado GR4A. Some of the partners are concerned that the U.K. could pursue development of a national standard with its own AESA, perhaps using funding from further export sales, for example, from Saudi Arabia.c/p Ovo je veliki bisnis za europske proizvođače vojne avijacije