LONDON — Flight tests of a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter sporting several aerodynamic modifications have greatly improved the aircraft's agility and weapons-carrying capabilities, Airbus Defence and Space said Wednesday.

The addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions and other more minor changes to an Airbus test aircraft resulted in improved lift, angle of attack and roll rate capabilities compared with the standard aircraft, the Eurofighter consortium member said in a statement.

The Airbus-funded flight test work on the aerodynamic modification kit ended early this year and the results presented to Typhoon customer nations, said a company spokesman.

None of the Typhoon operators have yet signed up for a capability boost which, although aimed at new production aircraft, could in principle be retrofitted to existing fleets.

Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain are the core customers with Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia having also acquired the fighter.

The improved capabilities will be a welcome boost to the Typhoon's sales pitch as it battles with European and US rivals for possible upcoming combat jet sales in Malaysia, Kuwait, Belgium, Bahrain and elsewhere.

France's Rafale jet has dominated recent export sales with Egypt, India and Qatar all selecting the Dassault Aviation fighter.

Even before Airbus aired some of its test data, Justin Bronk, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, released a report in April saying the Typhoon had "superb aerodynamics," which meant it could "outclass any current operational fighter in the world with the exception of the F-22."

RUSI is an independent think tank, but the report was sponsored by Eurofighter.

Airbus, part of the Eurofighter consortium alongside partners BAE Systems and Finmeccanica, said the modifications increased the maximum lift created by the wing by 25 percent, resulting in an increased turn rate, tighter turning radius and improved nose-pointing ability at low speed.

Test pilot Raffaele Beltrame said the program had exceeded expectations in some areas.

"We saw angle of attack values around 45 percent greater than on the standard aircraft, and roll rates up to 100 percent higher, all leading to increased agility. The handling qualities appeared to be markedly improved, providing more maneuverability, agility and precision," he said.

The test pilot said the modification work also offered potential benefits in the air-to-surface configuration, "thanks to the increased variety and flexibility of stores that can be carried."

The company completed 36 sorties from its Manching, Germany, facility using the IPA7 instrumented production aircraft. The flight trials followed some five years of studies.

The aerodynamics improvements are the latest of several capability upgrades announced in the last 18 months or so, including development of an e-scan radar, the integration of several news weapons and the development of a new multiweapon launcher.

Email: achuter@defensenews.com

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