EUROFIGHTER DROPS OUT

Typhoon, we hardly knew ye...
Airbus, which represents the Eurofighter consortium, announced the decision to withdraw from Canada's future fighter competition.  This follows Dassault, which announced its decision to leave back in November of last year.  This leaves Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Saab pitching their F-35, Super Hornet, and Gripen; respectively.

I wish I could say this came as a surprise.  Sadly, anyone who has been paying attention should have seen this coming.

Airbus's reasoning for dropping out of the competition sound suspiciously close to Dassault's; citing difficulty meeting security requirements and a last-minute alteration to the RFP that seemed to favor the JSF.
“A detailed review has led the parties to conclude that NORAD security requirements continue to place too significant of a cost on platforms whose manufacture and repair chains sit outside the United States-Canada 2-EYES community,” the statement from Airbus and the UK Defence Ministry noted. “Second, both parties concluded that the significant recent revision of industrial technological benefits obligations does not sufficiently value the binding commitments the Typhoon Canada package was willing to make, and which were one of its major points of focus.”
Basically, the Eurofighter consortium is stating they could not offer an economically competitive bid. They blame this security requirements...  But c'mon...

Still waiting on that AESA radar...
The Typhoon is a great fighter.  Possibly one of the best fighters flying in the world right now.  For its price, it damn well should be.  Unfortunately, Canada is not buying fighters based on "now" it is buying fighters for the post-2025 timeframe.  This is where the Typhoon falls woefully short.

Eurofighter's future is murky and complicated.  While a great deal has been said about the Typhoon's future potential, very little has been actually done about it.  No current customer has been willing to bankroll the improvements needed to make the Typhoon competitive compared to it rivals.  Promised upgrades like conformal fuel tanks and thrust-vectoring seem to have died on the vine.  With Typhoon production coming to an end, the chances of seeing these upgrades seem slim.

Performance-wise, the Typhoon was easily the most impressive of the potential CF-18 replacements.

Technology-wise, it left something to be desired.  No "widescreen" MFD like those seen on the JSF or Gripen E.  No AESA radar yet.  No stealth.  Canada could likely order a Typhoon with AESA radar and advanced display...  But at a substantially higher price since no other customer is willing to split the bill on development costs.

The Typhoon's economics have always been its Achilles' Heel.  Its multinational origin has led to countless layers of bureaucracy.  While the aircraft itself is impressive, its expensive and inefficient industrial model was clearly designed by committee.  As the F-35's cost has (debatably) come down, it has left the Eurofighter in the unenviable position of being the most expensive jet in the comparison.  Worse still, there seems to be no scenario that would indicate a drop in Typhoon prices.  A rise in price seem more likely, thanks to the instability of Brexit.

Operating expenses are high as well, with Austria still on the fence about replacing its Typhoon fleet due to high costs.

The Tempest.
Possibly the biggest strike against the Typhoon is its "partner nations" is the disinterest from its own "partner nations".  The UK has ordered its last Typhoon.  Germany can barely keep their Typhoons in the air.  Neither Spain and Italy seem likely to order more, even if they could afford them.

All the original Eurofighter partners seem to be happy to let the Typhoon stagnate.  Instead, momentum is building for its (and the Rafale's) replacement.  For BAE, Rolls-Royce, MBDA, and Leonardo; this would be the Tempest.  Dassault and Airbus have pitched the FCAS (Future Combat Air System).

This leaves the obvious question:  If the Typhoon's own parents want little to do with it; why should Canada?

So where does this leave the remaining three manufacturers?  Is Canada's future fighter replacement program on its way to being decided by default?

It would seem possible.



And then there were three...


Boeing could drop out given the "Boeing clause".  Given Boeing's actions against the Bombardier C-Series and (by proxy) Canada itself, it has nobody else but itself to blame for.  Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Saab could easily drop out citing the same reasons stated by Dassault and Airbus.  Saab is in a different position, however.  Its "next-generation" Gripen E is cheaper than both the Rafale and Typhoon with easily the cheapest sustainment costs.  It is equipped with all the "must-haves" like HMD, IRST, AESA radar, and a modern cockpit with a "widescreen display".  The Gripen E also has a clear future with both Sweden and Brazil signing on.

Most important is Saab's "ace-in-the-hole":  It has offered to build Gripens in Canada.  In a competition that places emphasis on industrial, technological, and economic benefits; this CANNOT be overstated.  Especially given the current election cycle and political climate with our southern neighbors.

Perhaps Saab's current progress with the Gripen E was the "last straw" in Airbus's decision to drop out.  With the F-35 clearly occupying the "high end" of the fighter market and the Gripen in the "low end" of the fighter market; the Typhoon occupies a sort of "no mans' land".  It lacks the technological prowess of the F-35 at a similar cost.  Meanwhile, the Gripen offer similar performance and more tech at a much lower cost.

The Typhoon was always going to be a tough sell.

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