By Matthew Beres, Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Analyst, Forecast International.
The Eurofighter Typhoon has had quite the roller coaster ride this year. Germany suspended deliveries of the aircraft and grounded its fleet after one of the external fuel tanks fell off the aircraft prior to takeoff. Also this year, a manufacturing defect was found that affects the connection between the fin and rear of the jet. In 2014 a fault was discovered in the Typhoon’s fuselage, which also led to grounding of European fleets and suspension of orders. In 2010 a failed ejector seat on a Saudi Arabian Typhoon also led to groundings.
These low points didn’t seem to deter Kuwait, which this year ordered 28 aircraft. The United Kingdom is debating whether in lieu of retirement, to retain its Tranche 1 Typhoons to mitigate a 2019 combat jet inventory of just 127 aircraft, its lowest strength since 1918. Perhaps these are resonating effects of Eurofighter’s determination not just to fix the Typhoon’s manufacturing flaws, but to continue modernization of the aircraft with its extensive line of enhancement programs.
The Phase 2 Enhancement program includes improved radar, a Defensive Aids System, and other avionics. BAE Systems is currently evaluating the Storm Shadow and Meteor missiles. The phase’s enhancements are scheduled for delivery to customers between 2015-2017.
Phase 3 Enhancements are under development to integrate Brimstone 2, along with enhancements to Storm Shadow, Meteor, Paveway IV, and ASRAAM weapon systems. These enhancements are scheduled for delivery in 2017.
Future enhancements include the Captor E-Scan radar and the Striker II helmet-mounted display, which is currently undergoing digital night vision capability evaluations. SDB II and Marte-ER anti-ship missiles may also be integrated to some platforms, along with MIDS JTRS and other avionics.
Renewed competition from the Rafale and Gripen are certainly driving this modernization, along with strong demand from potential European and international customers with aging fleets and growing security concerns. The Eurofighter consortium is certainly not mired by the Typhoon’s manufacturing flaws as it strives to provide a quality multi-role fighter to future and current international customers.