A Eurofighter Typhoon featuring conformal fuel tanks on display at the Dubai Airshow on Nov. 17. (Marwan Naamani / AFP)
DUBAI — Eurofighter is targeting the middle of 2014 to secure a deal with the fast jet’s European partner nations to develop an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar for the Typhoon, consortium officials said at the Dubai Airshow on Wednesday.
“The details will be frozen by the end of the year and there is a clear target from ourselves and our core customers, endorsed by our defense ministers, to sign a contract between us by mid-2014,” said Laurie Hilditch, Eurofighter’s head of future capability.
The deal will involve the development of a production-standard AESA radar by the Selex ES-led Euroradar consortium.
Hilditch declined to give a timetable for completion of the program or cost for the development contract.
A mid-year contract signing means it would be close to a two-year wait since the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) , which manages the program on behalf of the British, German, Italian and Spanish governments, issued Euroradar a request for proposals to develop the AESA system.
The drawn-out effort to make a production-standard AESA radar available to the Typhoon partners and export customers has drawn criticism from many quarters .
The slow pace of capability improvement approvals on Typhoon is partly responsible for a determination by industry and partner government to change the construct of Eurofighter and possibly NETMA to make the approval process more agile as the emphasis of the program begins to move away from production of aircraft for the European partners toward meeting export customers’ requirements.
Typhoon has already been sold to Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia; the aircraft is involved in export competitions in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Kuwait.
Eurofighter is a consortium involving BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica.
Development work on the Selex radar, known as Captor-E, has been continuing, partly funded by industry. Typhoon test aircraft IPA7 is almost ready to start shakeout flights following modifications to make it capable of testing an AESA radar.
The first flight is expected before the end of the year, after which the machine will be fitted out with a development standard radar in the first quarter of next year.
Hilditch told reporters at a briefing in Dubai that improvements to Typhoon’s strike weapons capabilities are on track to allow flight test campaigns with Storm Shadow and Taurus cruise missiles to get underway.
In the case of Storm Shadow, Alenia Aermacchi is expected to flight test the weapon at the Decimomannu air base in Sardinia imminently; a similar campaign on the Taurus is scheduled to get underway in December.
Eurofighter’s capability boss said full integration clearance for Storm Shadow is planned for 2015.
Media reports said recently that the Storm Shadow integration work was being mainly funded by the Saudi government.
The weapon is already used by the Saudis, British and Italians on Tornado strike aircraft.
Integration work on the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air weapon is already going full tilt.
It’s not just Typhoon weapons and radars that drew interest here. The machine being shown by BAE in the outside display park sported conformal fuel tanks capable of significantly extending the range of the fighter without having to sacrifice the use of weapon stations in order to carry drop tanks.
Hilditch said progress on clearance for the conformal fuel tanks was dependent on which air force wanted them, but that all customers were interested in the idea.
The latest standard of Typhoons, known as Tranche 3, now starting to come off the assembly lines in all four European partner nations, are being fitted for but not with conformal fuel tanks.
The first Tranche 3 aircraft, a Royal Air Force machine, is due to fly by the end of the year.