Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eurofighter: Is this the beginning of the end?

Does the Typhoon need to be put on life support?
News last week about Germany reducing its planned numbers of Eurofighter Typhoons has put a damper on continued production.  There is now possibility that the line may end with only a few prospects for further sales.

While the Typhoon is a fine fighter, it has the unfortunate distinction of being a "higher end" model.  Recent fighter sales have indicated a tendency to gravitate to the high-zoot F-35 or the more affordable Gripen.

The Typhoon does have a few prospects, however.  Friction with the Indian Rafale deal has left Eurofighter reminding India that it would be more than happy to play ball.  There's also a few possibilities in the Middle East and Denmark.

Where Eurofighter should really step up its game is Canada.

Boeing's Super Hornet is seen as pretty much the default alternative to a Canadian F-35.  But, Dassault has certainly been keen towards Canada, and wants to make its presence known.  Even the Gripen has a dedicated fan base, despite no longer participating in the process.  (I wonder why that is?)  So far, little has been heard from the Eurofighter group, though.  There is a very good possibility that this is due to BAE Systems and Alenia Aermacchi being major partners in both the Eurofighter and the F-35.

It even looks right.

This is a shame, as the Eurofighter might prove to be an easy sell in Canada.

It's already in use by several countries, 4 of which are NATO allies.  It's compatible with the CF-18's current stockpile of missiles and bombs.  Its proven itself in both simulated and real combat.  It is of two-engine design, so concerns about flame-outs over frozen tundra could be put to bed.

In fact, the only real strike against the Typhoon is its price, which is fairly irrelevant when compared to the even more expensive F-35 Lightning II.

I'm not saying the Typhoon is the best fighter for Canada, but few argue that it is the worst choice.


9 comments:

  1. An end of Typhoon program as soon as 2017/2018 would be a shame. But the four main partners do not show a big support to this program. Nevertheless, it seems odd to end production as soon as 3 years from now... while a firm contract is awaited this year to finally integrate an AESA radar. So, why this significant funding if production is to end when the new radar will become operationnal?!

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  2. It's maybe not as bad as all that. A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of internet chatter that Kuwait had signed a provisional contract to buy 24-28 Typhoons. Now that the price dispute has been settled with Saudi Arabia that opens the door to a second order of up to 72 aircraft plus an order of 14-16 for Bahrain (which the Saudi's would pay for). And Oman still has an option to buy a second batch of 12. These orders alone would keep the production line going to 2021.
    Then there's Italy. To save on their budget it would be a lot cheaper to halve their F-35 order in favour of buying tranche 3B Typhoons which are not only cheaper but would avoid the fines that Germany is having to pay. The new government there are certainly debating this.
    So let's not get too gloomy.
    However, you do have a point about BAe having a stake in both aircraft! They get 33% of a Typhoon (so at $80 million per unit BAe get $26 million) or 15% of an F-35 (at $120 million per unit BAe get $18 million)!

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  3. The anti-eurofighter propaganda, mosty from US-based defence media, but also from german newspapers, has finally bear fruit. The purpose of this excitement is to post something, whichs sticks in the readers mind, to relate some negative thought with the eurofigher project. Time for a reality check:

    Rafale: only 11 aircaft will be produced per year from 2014 on, to keep the line open to 2019 w/o further exports, including upgrades for french fighters.

    Eurofighter: The Typhoon output is >40/y (400 planes from 2003 to 2013), to keep the line open to 2018 (5 x >40 = >200 a/c, sum >600 a/c total production). Not yet contracted mods like captor-e or CFTs, or exports not included.

    Gripen: De facto out of production. The Gripen NG is a new development, based on the proven and good Gripen design. When production starts, we'll see.

    F/A-18E/F: De facto out of production in 2014. The "line" is "open", because of Growler recabling for the aussies, and upgrades for the navy. Not-so-production, eh.

    F-22: Ultra-expensive, ultra-useless fighter with no mission flown as today. Out of production since years, after only 187 delivered.

    F-35: Fighter-bomber without working mission systems. Officially in production since 2011, the so called low-rate-production, based on concurrency, which is a synonym for ponzi-scheme. Between 30-40/y, and full of bugs. No realistic IOC in sight. Only US-"fighter" in real production.

    Su-35S: No export orders yet. 12 a/c per year, from 2012 to 2015. End of production in 2015, when no export customers arrive. Change of the production line to PAK-FA most plausible.

    The bottom line is, that the Typhoon project has the hottest production line of all fighters available. Only the F-35 comes close with 30-40/y, and the Su-30, which is for non-western markets. If the Eurofighter GmbH would slow the line to 10-20 a/c per year, like rafale or Su-35, the production run would last beyond 2023, without any exports or mods.

    Talking of production end without talking about yet-to-be-delivered-orders, and delivered a/c per year, is a bit unfair. But quite common, when it comes to Typhoon. The end of the Super Hornet is barely noticed in the media, although it is the end of Boeing as fighter manufacturer - sadly.

    Greez

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  4. To be precise, the Gripen is not exactly out of production. They are still converting 39A's to 39C's and D's. They have a few more to go. The upgrade is, simplifies, you remove the wings, radar, seat, engine and some other details. Throw away the rest, build a new airframe and attach the parts to the new airframe. So in essence they are building a new aircraft sans wings.
    But if you want to order a new aircraft, the 39E is probably the version you are going to get. And why not. SAAB claims it will the same price as the old version. The last batch of aircraft was actually less expensive than the per a/c than the two prior batches.

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  5. great summary. You forgot F-15 which also comes to an end but means Boeing will remain a fighter manufacturer a little longer.

    More than 40 Eurofighter produced per year is indeed a good production rate. But, as far as final assembly is concerned, isn't the production shared between 4 factories (Spain, Germany, UK, Italy) ? It seems that the only way to reduce production would be to close one or more of the current final assembly lines.
    In my opinion, Germany wasn't a big support to Eurofighter program this years.... how to explain that? Without planned replacement for their Tornado, Eurofighter will become their only fighter aircraft soon.


    But, there is also some anti-Rafale propaganda in French medias...
    About Rafale, production rate was reduced at 11 a/c per year several years ago (2007, or maybe 2009).

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  6. jep, unfortunately germany's role in the EF project was, most of the time, not very constructive. The problem was, that the one mayor party, the SPD, was pro-EF, while the other, CDU, was more against it. As governments changed, numbers changed.

    Main problem in the 1980s was the air force had more priority for getting PATRIOT SAM systems, then develop a phantom replacement. In the 1990s, when the decision between Dornier / Grumman ND-102 (later YF-23, without the german company) or the MBB / McDonnell Douglas concept (later merged with BAe P.110 to EF, separately pursued with X-31) was pending, the industrial benefits, cost, and production share issues slowed the programm. After the fall of the USSR, the CDU wanted to get out of the EF project. Then, they accepted 140 as a compromise. Finally, because of production share issues, they agreed to 180. Later, the SPD lead governement came to power, and gave the 180 their ok. Now, with Mrs Merkel, the CDU is back again, and wants to cut to 140/143.



    Sorry I forgot the F-15. The production line is open to 2018/2019, mainly because of saudi and korean orders. The F-15 is a good example, that a production line can be open for years without domestic orders. Production rate should be close to 20 a year.


    Less final assembly lines on the EF project would save cost, especially when lowering output/year. It is likely, only Warton will stay in the long run. I don't know the exact scheme, but it seems that all export orders are assembled in warton.



    Greez

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  7. thank you for this very interesting answer!

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  8. I remember in the late 90s when I read that Canada was a partner in the JSF, I thought huh, it's single engine, this doesn't make sense. When I researched it a little, I read we were a level 3 partner, and weren't required to purchase it. In my naiveness I thought great, its has to be Eurofighter for Canada! lol. On another note does anybody see the HMCS Protecteur drifting at sea with out an engine a metaphor for the whole Canadian Armed Forces?

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