What is the present situation as regards the Luftwaffe?
On 14 February 2005 the first single-seater production Eurofighter from German production was handed over to the Luftwaffe. It was flown to the Air Force School of Engineering No. 1 in Kaufbeuren, where it is being used to train technicians and ground staff. A second single-seater was delivered on 11 April 2005. The aircraft was handed over to Fighter Wing 73 "Steinhoff" as an operational aircraft and, like the two-seaters delivered so far, it is now being flown in field trials and to provide further training to the pilots.
This aircraft is the tenth that the Luftwaffe has received from industry since the first aeroplane, also earmarked for technician training, was handed over in February 2003.
The Eurofighter, the most advanced of all latest-generation airborne weapon systems, received its type acceptance from the partner nations of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain on 30 June 2003.
For the German Luftwaffe, flying operations with production aircraft commenced with the Eurofighter Project Team Combat Aircraft in August 2003. On 30 April 2004, the Luftwaffe Eurofighter officially entered into service with Fighter Wing 73 "Steinhoff" in Rostock-Laage. As in the other partner nations of the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, the first aircraft to be delivered in Germany will to start with be used in initial flight operations. This phase, which in the Luftwaffe will extend for 250 hours, will serve to familiarize the pilots and technicians with the new system and to develop tactical operational procedures and training plans. Once that phase is over, the Luftwaffe's already trained flying instructors in Rostock-Laage will train the future combat pilots on the Eurofighter.
And how will things continue with the Luftwaffe?
The majority of the total of 180 aircraft destined for the German Luftwaffe will be single-seaters. Full mission capability conforming with the usual NATO criteria will be attained for air-to-air tasks in the summer of 2006 and for the air-to-ground role in the spring of 2007.
By the year 2013, the Luftwaffe plans to have replaced the MiG-29 (already decommissioned), the F-4F Phantom and parts of the Tornado fleet with the Eurofighter, which will then be flown by three fighter wings (Rostock-Laage, Neuburg/Danube and Wittmund) and two fighter bomber wings (Nörvenich and Büchel). Eurofighter is therefore quite literally the "backbone of the air force", in the operationally vital roles of air surveillance, air defence and air-to-ground missions. And, with the state-of-the-art weapons such as the IRIS-T, Meteor and Taurus guided missiles that are successively coming online and the growth potential envisaged for the system as a whole, Eurofighter will continue to be an invaluable asset over its service life lasting several decades.
Thanks to its multiple sensor network, advanced information processing and management and powerful communication systems, Eurofighter is the German Luftwaffe's first airborne weapon system capable of being deployed in network enabled warfare operations Eurofighter will therefore be the best multi-role combat aircraft available on the world market for many years to come.
What is the current status of the Eurofighter programme?
To date 35 production aircraft have been delivered to the four partner nations. A further 39 aircraft are scheduled for delivery before the end of this year as well. The present production tranche comprises 148 aircraft for the four participating partner nations, with 44 of these earmarked for the Luftwaffe.
On 14 December the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), acting for the four Eurofighter partner nations, and Eurofighter GmbH on behalf of the participating industrial companies signed the production contract for the second tranche totalling 236 aircraft, 68 of which are intended for the Luftwaffe.
Are the twin-seaters variants, which account for most of the Eurofighters delivered to date, purely "trainers"?
The only differences between the twin-seater Eurofighter configuration and the single-seater are that on the twin-seater slightly less fuel is carried in the fuselage and the performance data is slightly reduced. Both versions have identical combat capabilities. The reduction in the quantity of fuel carried in the fuselage is due to the larger cockpit required to accommodate two pilots. However, some of the difference is compensated for by additional fuel in the extended dorsal fin on this version. Both the single-seater and the twin-seater are equipped with the same powerful on-board radar, identical sensors and cockpit displays, an air-to-air refuelling capability and the same armaments. The weapons currently carried are those required for the air defence role (guided missiles for shorter ranges - Sidewinder AIM-9L - and for long-range aerial combat - AMRAAM) that have already undergone extensive testing.
Eurofighter- a product for the (c)old war era?
It was back in the late 1970s that the companies forming the Eurofighter consortium (EADS in Germany and Spain, Alenia Aeronautica in Italy and BAE Systems in the United Kingdom) conducted their preliminary studies into a future tactical fighter aircraft. Critics often draw the unfounded conclusions from this that Eurofighter has long been technically and militarily obsolete. However, the fact is that the development work did not get under way until 1988.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, at the request of the German government of the day the programme went through an intensive and time-consuming "reorientation phase" in the early 1990s. The entire project was closely scrutinized in the light of the new military environment (in particular against the background of the end to the direct NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation and the experience gained from the first Gulf War), and investigations were made into possible alternatives. Other aircraft programmes begun in the same period or even later which today are competitors of the Eurofighter were not subjected or were hardly subjected to this fundamental validation check. Recent experience shows that this omission often results in extra cost and delays further down the road.
Furthermore, other current European and US American aircraft programmes have experienced much more serious deviations from the original time schedule, cost projection and the originally planned performance spectrums prior to the aircraft's projected or actual entry into service. This has been the case, for example, with the F-22 and the F-35.
Today, it can be said that this reorientation phase up to the production decision in early 1998 on the Eurofighter programme may have delayed the original timescales planned, but that in the long run it has confirmed that the design criteria were correct for present-day technical and operational conditions.
Criticism of the Eurofighter- largely overtaken and rebutted.
The most important criterion by which a product and its manufacturer are judged is customer satisfaction. And this certainly also applies to Eurofighter. Both the air forces of the partner nations and also the defence ministries have consistently pronounced that, already at this early stage of its service life, the Eurofighter's standards of performance are considerably superior to the acceptance criteria that were laid down and which formed the basis for the associated flight certification.
There were indeed teething problems at the start of production of the wings, vertical fin, airbrake and leading edge slats and there were interface problems at the connecting point between the fuselage forward and centre sections. Despite extremely careful preparation, unfortunately such shortcomings in the early stages cannot be entirely precluded and exist in virtually every area of high technology, even in competing international products and items of everyday use.
However, the critical point is whether such deficiencies are identified and remedied without putting the customer at a disadvantage. It goes without saying that such corrective action is assured and is included as standard content in the production contracts.
The step-by-step development of capabilities of the overall system is already recorded in the Eurofighter contracts. For example, as far as the Luftwaffe's aircraft are concerned, the delivery of different configurations follows the plans for conversion to the new weapon system. The Luftwaffe had an urgent requirement for an air-to-air capability as the F-4F Phantoms previously used for this purpose had, realistically speaking, been close to the end of their service life for some time and the MiG-29 fighter aircraft was taken out of service and sold to Poland. In parallel with the new Luftwaffe fleet concept, which envisages redefinition of the Luftwaffe's capability profile accompanied by restructuring, the different capabilities needed are being mapped step-by-step onto Eurofighter aircraft. The urgency of the functions to be taken on can be measured by the age of the aircraft types to be replaced.
The Eurofighter- praised by pilots
The impressions of pilots who have flown the Eurofighter are summed up graphically by Craig Penrice, test pilot at BAE Systems, in the words, "When you land after flying it, you are beaming with pleasure."
The Eurofighter has also received praise from unexpected quarters, which makes it even more significant: General John P. Jumper, Commander-inChief of the US Air Force, said after flying the Eurofighter that he was impressed with it. Right after his flight on the Eurofighter on 20 July 2004, Jumper said, "I have flown all the air force jets. None was as good as the Eurofighter." In particular, Jumper praised the Eurofighter's agility, manoeuvrability, acceleration and precise navigation.
And recently the General praised the Eurofighter once again, in March 2005: "The Eurofighter is very impressive." He reserved special praise for the performance of the aircraft in aerial combat. According to the General, the European jet is easy to fly, even under heavy loadings- "It was developed for that. The version that I flew, with its avionics, the colour display systems - everything was top-class. The agility of the aircraft in close aerial combat was truly impressive." The Commander-in-Chief of the US Air Force made direct comparisons on this occasion between the Eurofighter and the latest American fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor. He said that the Eurofighter was extremely agile and also very advanced from the technological point of view. Although the two aircraft have different designs and are used operationally in slightly different ways, in his view the Eurofighter and the F-22 are both "hightech aircraft" of the highest level. General Jumper is the only pilot in the world to have personally flown both aircraft types.
Eurofighter- more costly than planned?
Both development and production of the Eurofighter have been governed by fixed-price contracts that were approved by the governments of the partner nations. In Germany the conclusion of the contract was approved by the Bundestag.
The only factors leading to changes in the agreed sums have been the inflation index adjustment and the increase in the value-added tax. The German share of the development costs amounts to €4.39 billion, while the procurement of the 180 aircraft for the Luftwaffe runs to €13.444 billion (price level as of the beginning of 2004).
Industry has not imposed any price increases. However, the customer has placed orders for additional work such as the electronic self-protection systems, which has also received parliamentary approval. The development, procurement and integration of the latest weapons such as IRIS-T, Meteor and Taurus are primarily intended for Eurofighter, but these can also be deployed on Tornado. An order has also been placed to install the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) data transmission system. Some modifications to the Eurofighter supply system (Integrated Logistic Support) are also planned. These will be carried out by industry. A sum of €2 billion has been earmarked and approved for this.