prudence quand même
Tranche 3 was split into 3A and 3B portions as a compromise among the four nations and industry in 2009, after the governments balked at committing to the entire remaining order for the fighter jet amid the deepening economic crisis in Europe and beyond.
Britain has the largest 3B commitment at 48 aircraft, followed by Germany with 37, Italy with 25 and Spain with 14. All but the Germans have deep public finance problems, which have led to reductions in defense spending.
The first of 112 Tranche 3A aircraft ordered by the four nations was test flown by BAE for the first time late last year.
Assembly lines across the four nations will start going quiet at the end of 2017 if there are no further orders from the partner nations or export customers.
It entails primarily the addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions, which increase the maximum lift created by the wing by 25% - resulting in an increased turn rate, tighter turning radius, and improved nose-pointing ability at low speed – all critical fighter capabilities in air-to-air combat.
The introduction of the AMK will not only enhance the Eurofighter’s current capability as a swing-role fighter-bomber, but will provide additional growth potential, enabling easier integration of future air–to-surface configurations and much more flexible applications, vastly enhancing the aircraft’s mission effectiveness in the air-to-surface role.
Eurofighter Project Pilot Germany Raffaele Beltrame said: “This programme has been a tremendous success with very impressive results – in some areas even better than we expected.
“We saw angle of attack values around 45% greater than on the standard aircraft, and roll rates up to 100% higher, all leading to increased agility. The handling qualities appeared to be markedly improved, providing more manoeuvrability, agility and precision while performing tasks representative of in-service operations. And it is extremely interesting to consider the potential benefits in the air-to-surface configuration thanks to the increased variety and flexibility of stores that can be carried.
“It´s right to say that the EFEM/AMK work has allowed us to discover a new aircraft with much higher performance and greater potential to meet the challenges of the years ahead.”
The flight trials followed some five years of studies. Eurofighter test pilots, joined in the latter stages by operational pilots from Germany, Italy and the UK, completed 36 sorties from Manching, Germany on the IPA7 Instrumented Production Aircraft.
The French (and Swedes) have long excelled in electronic warfare and jamming and the Typhoon has a way to go yet if it is to catch up with the other two Eurocanards in this area. It is also worth remembering, however, that part of the Rafale’s appearance of being able to go places Typhoon cannot due to SPECTRA is explained by the higher (and admirable) tolerance for risk in the Armee de l’Air compared to the RAF or any other European air forces. Even if Typhoon had SPECTRA, the RAF would not have sent it into Libya before the US air defence suppression had been carried out.
Any fighter evaluation depends on the details of the assessment criteria for each exercise and without seeing those, I cannot possibly speculate. However, one thing which is worth noting is that the Typhoon sent to Switzerland was apparently a tranche 1 and one with problems. Someone involved in the competition told me in person that ‘the Swiss told us [Typhoon] that technically speaking we had brought the finest jet of the bunch, but it was as if we had brought a Mercedes sports car where the door wouldn’t shut properly and the air conditioning was broken’.