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Eurofighter Typhoon Multirole Fighter (2003)

Authored By Captain Jack | Last Updated: 2/24/2014

The oft-delayed Eurofighter Typhoon is the future of European air dominance.

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The Eurofighter Typhoon represents much of what is both good and bad in multi-national joint ventures. While itself appearing as a stellar end-product brought about by years of data collection, research and development, the speed bumps met along the way have been quite notable. The joint venture has allowed for a more cost-feasible fighter aircraft that showcases some of the very latest technological advances in the realm of military aircraft but, at the same time, the program has been plagued by delays from the outset. Regardless, the Typhoon is currently in operational service (albeit in limited numbers) but both its reach and its battlefield roles are expanding with each passing year. Several hundred systems are on order as of this writing and some examples have already seen operational deployment to various parts of the world (none in combat roles however). The export market has also just come alive with interest in the completed Eurofighter design. By modern jet fighter standards, the European consortium has delivered a capable war-winner matched only by few mounts in today's sky. Only time will tell if the effort has proved worthy.

The ECF and the ECA

The ECF (European Collaborative Fighter) program was formed between British Aerospace and West Germany firm Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm in 1979, later that year to be joined by French-based Dassault - thus forcing a program name change to "European Combat Aircraft", or the ECA. Each country worked on separate prototype designs but the joint venture soon dissipated by 1981 due to changing needs and differing design directions. The French were adamant on the use of the French-based SNEMA M88 powerplant (in keeping with delivering jobs to folks back home) while the British were more interested in a modified British-based RB199 turbofan. West Germany was off in the fields developing their own concept fighter amidst the mounting disagreements.

The Royal Air Force Operational Requirements Branch began looking past their aging crop of McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs and SEPECAT Jaguar fighters with their respective air defense and ground attack roles. What it sought was a new, single platform capable of multi-role functionality. The resulting need dictated a fast, agile, offensive-minded fighter with short range and culminated in the Air Staff Requirement (Air) 414.

The ACA and the EAP

Following the dismembering of the ECA program, BAe, MBB and Aeritalia (of Italy) - mind you all being members of the earlier Panavia Tornado consortium - came together to birth the "Agile Combat Aircraft" (ACA) program in April of 1982. A preliminary design emerged having canard foreplanes, twin vertical tail fins and a cranked delta wing assembly. The intakes were fitted along the lower fuselage just under the nose with the powerplant was based on the British preferred RB.199 engine. By this point, the German and Italian governments had pulled their capital from the project until the British offered to finance up to 50% of the project. The British then contracted BAe to produce the required ACA demonstrator for evaluation and review under the "Experimental Aircraft Program" (EAP) name.

FEFA

1983 saw yet another new consortium form between the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and, this time, the program was designated the "Future European Fighter Aircraft" (or FEFA) with the goal to produce an aircraft with BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missile tracking and engagement capabilities and STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) qualities. It was only France that desired a carrier-capable element and made this desire well-known while at the same time requiring that they be selected to lead the FEFA program. As a result, the British, Germans and Italians went in a different direction and set up their own EFA (European Fighter Aircraft) project, leaving the French to their own devices. BAe was given a contract to develop a technology demonstrator in May of 1983. A feasibility study was concluded in July of 1984.

The BAe EAP

On August 2nd, 1985, the new consortium agreed in principle to the creation of the "Eurofighter". France and Spain were more or less out of the loop at this point. While Spain weighed its options, France went ahead with an indigenous fighter program that would ultimately output the impressive Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter. Program costs for the EAP fighter were growing, however, and several challenges nearly killed the project altogether. This was not helped by the German and Italian unwillingness to provide additional capital to the growing monster.

The BAe end-product was unveiled in April of 1986 at Warton. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH and Eurojet Turbo GmbH were established to manage both the development of the fighter proper and the development of the engines to be. The EAP (Experimental Aircraft Program) was a technology demonstrator essentially developed as a private venture on the part of BAe. First flight occurred on August 8th, 1986 and eventually culminated with its retirement on May 1st, 1991. The aircraft flew on 259 test flights and totaled over 195 hours of flight time. The technology demonstrator served to provide valuable data for the upcoming Typhoon design and processed the validity of several key technological components including use of carbon fiber and aluminum lithium alloy construction in wing and fuselage design. A long five years of developmental testing followed but program data accumulated quickly and made much of the upcoming Typhoon fighter possible. The EAP helped to develop a "fly-by-wire" system that could be used in conjunction with an inherently unstable aerodynamic airframe. The type was powered by two Turbo-Union RB.199-104 series turbofan engines with afterburning (as found on the Panavia Tornado ADV variant) delivering 16,000lbs thrust each and also given a Tornado's tailfin to help save on expenses. Maximum speed was approximately Mach 2.27 (1,500 miles per hour) at altitude. The EAP airframe made use of a "cranked" delta wing as opposed to a true "straight" delta system later found on the Typhoon and was also given a straight-lipped underfuselage intake opening (this appearing as bowed on the final Typhoon). Only a single example was ever produced though two were scheduled to be built. While the British government offered to fund the EAP program to a point, the other participating governments lacked the needed capital to contribute and thusly the second prototype was never exercised.

In 1987, the EFA European Staff Requirement for Development delivered its final specification offering up more detail in the fighter it sought. The new aircraft was to be powered by a pair of afterburning turbo fans, promote a small radar cross section, offer unprecedented agility, operate from short airfields, provide beyond-visual-range tracking and engagement and support supersonic performance at altitude. The airframe would have to center in on a primary air-to-air mentality with air-to-surface functionality as second. The general specifications agreed upon included a 21,495lb empty weight and 20,233lb thrust output (with afterburner) for each engine. The multi-billion dollar contract for construction and testing of such an aircraft was signed on November 23rd, 1988, and would eventually incorporate a total of eight prototypes - 3 to the UK, 2 to Germany, 2 to Italy and 1 to Spain. Funding the production forms would be entirely based on the original share breakdown as 33% BAe Systems, 33% MDD (EADS Deutschland), 21% Alenia and 13% CASA (EADS CASA). In short, the more aircraft a nation was ordering, the more of a production load its citizens would be granted. The contract covered main engine and weapons system development as well. In early 1990, the selection of the Ferranti Defense Systems ECR-90 radar system was finalized to be housed in the nose cone of each production Typhoon.

German Reunification and Finding a Way Out

Reunification of Germany in the early 90s placed the once-split German nation on wavering financial standing. 1992 saw the entire Eurofighter program reappraised in light of the events culminating with the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The German Defense Minister looked to remove Germany's involvement in the financial burden that was the Eurofighter project altogether and seek cheaper alternatives for their modern fighter needs. At the time, the only viable options appeared as the Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" and the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" and these were wholly outclassed when compared to the highly-advanced Typhoon. Additionally, Germany's commitments to the ongoing program were so deep that removal of the nation from the project was near-impossible. As such, Germany, even after reunification and financial stresses, stayed on as a key player in Eurofighter development. About this time, the program took on the name of "Eurofighter 2000".

EFA Prototypes

The EFA prototypes followed the "DA" designation with a numeric suffix. The DA.1 went airborne for the first time on March 27th, 1994 and was followed by the RB.199-powered DA.2 achieving its glory on April 6th of that same year. Flight time was 45 and 50 minutes respectively. DA.1 was given the task of testing out the Typhoon's high dynamic pressure and stressing the structure. DA.2 was the first British-build Eurofighter prototype and also the first to be completed of any nation, but the second to actually become airborne. DA.2 was eventually refitted with EJ200 powerplants and sent up again with its new engines in August of 1988. She was also called to complete the first air-to-air refueling trials. DA.4 was a two-seat airframe and a test-bed for the ECR.90 radar system. DA.5 tested in-flight avionics and the weapons system. Both DA.4 and DA.5 flew after DA.6 became airborne. DA.6 was the second two-seat prototype but the first such airframe to fly but was lost on November 21st, 2002, due to a dual engine flameout - both pilots ejected safely. First flight was on August 31st, 1996. DA.7 became the final developmental prototype for funding was cut on any subsequent projections so the projected eighth prototype was never to be. DA.7 first flew in 1997 and tested navigation, weapons integration, performance and communications. Five "Instrument Production Aircraft" (IPA) followed the prototypes with IPA.1 achieving first flight on April 15th, 2002.

The first production contract was signed off on January 30th, 1998, and included all of the primary handlers - Eurofighter, Eurojet and NETMA. In September of 1998, the "Typhoon" name was officially adopted (replacing the "EF2000" designation) for the new fighter in a naming ceremony with Germany initially rejecting the name. Delivery of production Typhoons was scheduled to begin sometime in 2001. These was consistently defeated due to project delays. The fighter was officially introduced on August 3rd, 2003. Cold Environment Trials (CET) were conducted in 2004. The CAESAR demonstrator system was showcased in a first flight in May 2007. A near-production form of the Typhoon went airborne on January 16th, 2008. The Royal Air Force received their first pair of Typhoons on October 21st, 2008, these arriving at RAF Coningsby.

Germany Stirs the Waters Yet Again

The United Kingdom originally committed to the purchase of 250 aircraft while Germany signed on for 250 systems themselves. Italy would buy 165 and Spain would take on 100. Final assembly would occur in the respective operator country. Assembly plants have been set up with BAe for British-purchased Typhoons while other Typhoons will be "born" at lines in Munich, Turin and Madrid.

The shared workload of Typhoon production always centered directly on the procurement numbers committed by each participating country. The more Typhoon aircraft a country ordered, the more of the production share they were to receive. This was, at least in the beginning, the formal agreement by all partners. However, once each nation started to re-evaluate their fighter needs, there were cuts being made across the board. UK orders dropped from 250 to 232 examples while German was to take delivery of just 140 units from its original 250. Italy cut its commitment from 165 down to 121 systems while Spain dropped from 100 to 87 aircraft. While this was all well and good on the outside, Germany - themselves having cut 110 total aircraft from their original commitment - refused to take a reduced production workload. It was not until some political wrangling on the part of the British did the Germans accept the purchase of 40 more Typhoons (these of the multi-role variety) in reaching an acceptable compromise.

With production orders adjusted, the workload share was now split as 43% (EADS MAS - Germany and Spain), 37.5% (BAe - UK) and 19.5% (Alenia - Italy). EADS Deutschland was charged with component production of the main center fuselage while EADS CASA would handle the right wing and leading edge slat production. BAe Systems would produce the canard foreplanes, forward fuselage, vertical tail fin, fuselage spine, the rear fuselage, canopy and inboard flaperons for the wings. Alenia Aeronautica was charged with production of the outboard flaperons, rear fuselage components and the left wing. Complete system procurement was/is occurring under what are called "tranches", essentially stepped contractual agreements between the involved parties. To date, there are three tranches associated with Typhoon procurement known simply as "Tranche 1", "Tranche 2" and "Tranche 3A". These contracts will result in the production and delivery of some 559 total Typhoo aircraft when all is completed.

While there exists both a single-seat (Typhoon F1) and two-seat (Typhoon T1) version of the basic Typhoon airframe, the single-seat version is the primary air defense/multi-role platform. The two-seat variant served primarily as a trainer for incoming Typhoon pilots. Early delivery Typhoons were strictly air-to-air capable and only partially so. Full air-to-air capability was reached by the final (fourth) production Block of aircraft delivered in Tranche 1. Air-to-ground capability came in Tranche 2 deliveries. Tranche 3 aircraft will feature upgradable functionality to help expand lethality and battlefield usefulness but originally appear with Tranche 2 standard features.

Introduction, Operators and Known Production

As of this writing, the aircraft is in operational service with the British Royal Air Force, the German Luftwaffe, the Italian Aeronautica Militare, the Spanish Air Force and the Austrian Air Force. Austrian represents the first foreign operator of the Typhoon with Saudi Arabia soon to follow (a contract was signed for procurement of up to 72 Typhoon aircraft in 2007). In early January of 2009, there were approximately 471 Typhoons on order for all participants combined.

Germany and Spain received their initial Typhoons in 2003. Italy received her first in December of 2005. Multi-role Typhoons were delivered to the British in 2007 and declared fully combat-ready (air-to-air and air-to-ground) on July 1st, 2008. Typhoons in service have already seen some limited action - one such event saw an RAF pair intercept an encroaching Russian Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" bomber in 2007 while others were put on station in the Falklands near Argentina in 2009.

Austria Jumps On Board

Austria agreed on July 2nd, 2002, to become a procurement partner in the Typhoon program. The formal agreement occurred on July 1st, 2003, with the expected delivery of 18 examples as well as applicable pilot and crew training and simulation time. However, this number was scaled back to 15 Typhoons on June 26th, 2007. The first Typhoon was delivered on July 12th, 2007 and promptly entered operational service with the Austrian Air Force soon after.

Saudi Arabia Follows...With a Little Blackmail

Saudi Arabia, like Austria before it, was in the market for a next generation frontline defense fighter. After coming up empty with proposals through Singapore and South Korea, the Saudi's settled on the Eurofighter Typhoon. The agreement was announced on August 18th, 2006. However, the British "Serious Fraud Office" was investigating several defense deals conducted by the Saudis in the 1980s. These involved BAe Systems bribery of Saudi officials during the "Al Yamamah" arms deals between the two countries - arms delivered to the Saudis in payment of oil to the British. When the Saudi's threatened to pull out of their purchase of 72 Typhoons (and purchase French Dassault Rafales instead), justice flew out the window, replaced by a backtracking British government that promptly called off the investigation on December 14th, 2006. Of the 72 aircraft on order, 48 of these will be completed in Saudi Arabia. There is a potential for the Kingdom to order an additional 24 jets in the future. The first Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Typhoon was delivered to Saudi soil on June 23rd, 2009.


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Specifications for the
Eurofighter Typhoon
Multirole Fighter


Focus Model: Eurofighter Typhoon F1
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: BAe Systems - UK / EADS - Germany / EADS CASA - Spain / Alenia - Italy
Initial Year of Service: 2003
Production: 471


Crew: 1


Length: 52.36 ft (15.96 m)
Width: 35.93 ft (10.95 m)
Height: 17.32ft (5.28 m)
Weight (Empty): 24,251 lb (11,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 51,809 lb (23,500 kg)


Powerplant: 2 x Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofans generating 20,250lbs of thrust each.


Maximum Speed: 1,550 mph (2,495kmh; 1,347 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,802 miles (2,900km)
Service Ceiling: 64,993 ft (19,810 m; 12.3 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 62,000 feet per minute (18,898 m/min)


Hardpoints: 13
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
1 x 27mm Mauser BK-27 internal cannon

OPTIONAL:
Mission specific armament across thirteen external hardpoints includes (up to 16,500lbs):

AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles
ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missiles
BAe/Saab S225X missiles
IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles
AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles
MDBA Meteor medium-range air-to-air missiles
"Storm Shadow" stand-off missiles
Taurus KEPD350 Stand-off missiles
GBU-10 laser-guided bombs
GBU-12 laser-guided bombs
BAe/MATRA "Brimstone" anti-armor weapon
AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles
AGM "Armiger" anto-radiation missiles
ALARM anti-radiation missiles
AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles
Pengiun anti-ship missiles
Paveway II laser-guided bombs
Paveway III laser-guided bombs
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM)
Conventional Drop Ordnance
Drop Tanks (Fuel)


Variants:
Typhoon F1 - Single seat variant; initial air-to-air capability followed by complete air-to-surface capability; three production runs comprised of individual delivery Blocks.


Typhoon T1 - Dual-seat trainer variant; non-combat derivative.


Operators:
United Kingdom; Germany; Italy; Oman; Spain; Saudi Arabia