Eurofighter Typhoon (Agence France-Presse)
PARIS — Equipping the Typhoon with the MBDA Meteor missile came one step closer on Tuesday when the Eurofighter industrial consortium signed a contract with NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter management agency, to integrate the missile.
New Eurofighter head Alberto Gutierrez signed the deal with NETMA general manager Jesus Pinillos Prieto at the Paris Air Show, ensuring “the growing momentum of the Eurofighter enhancement program which is delivering real capability to our customers,” Gutierrez said.
Eurofighter partner BAE Systems test-fired a Meteor missile from a Typhoon in December. “Further design and test work on the missile system will continue as part of the integration program as BAE Systems, Cassidian and Alenia Aermacchi embed the system within the program in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain,” Eurofighter said in a statement.
The Eurofighter nations are also inching closer to mounting an active, electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar on the aircraft, said Fabrizio Giulianini, head of Finmeccanica unit Selex ES, which is supplying the lion’s share of electronic systems to the aircraft.
Speaking at the air show, Giulianini said funding from the four nations to proceed with the AESA program could come by the end of 2013 or the start of 2014. Industry has spent some €200 million (US $267 million) so far to develop the radar.
Test flights by Eurofighter aircraft with the radar are due to take place in Germany and the UK this year, or by the first quarter of 2014. An industrial source linked to the program said six or seven radars would be required for qualification and testing.
Eurofighter submitted a proposal for the radar to governments in November and reworked it in January to beef up air-to-ground attack capabilities.
The four Eurofighter nations could take around 200 AESA radars, with the UK, Italy and Spain ordering them for their third tranche fighters and Germany taking them for its second and third tranche aircraft.
Giulianini said the program is on course for first deliveries of the new radar in 2017, which, he said, would be in time for possible orders of the aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as second tranche orders from Saudi Arabia.
The lack of an AESA radar was not a factor in Eurofighter losing its battle in India with the Rafale, he said. “We had made a commitment to give India an e-scan radar in time,” he said.
Giulianini said the radar allowed a better exploitation of the Meteor missile than the current mechanically scanned radar on the Eurofighter, “since its bigger field of regard allows for evasive maneuvers while tracking the missile,” he said. ■
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