First I will thank Najia for asking about this subject. One of my interests is aviation, especially military aviation since what is first seen there soon moves to civilian aviation.
So I will start by quoting an article in the Scotsman. "For a project 10 years late and $8bn over budget, it is a welcome piece of good news."
The good news in question is two USAF F-15E Strike Eagles decided to bounce a RAF two-seat Typhoon in some unplanned DACM. Well the smaller Typhoon managed to instead bounce the two mud-movers. Kudos to the RAF pilots for being on the ball and taking the fight to the Americans. As for the two American crews, sounds like you Yanks did not take it serious and thought it was a lark. To quote Randy “Duke” Cunningham USN VietNam ace and currently a Representative in the US House, “You fight as you train.” You gents did not train enough plus you fly the ground attack version of the Eagle.
The bad news, the Eurofighter/Typhoon/Taifun is TEN years late and over budget. Actually almost twenty years late if you go by the RAF’s timeline, they expected this plane in service in 1987.
Lets start at the beginning. Though the official RAF Typhoon site starts back in 1971, the chronology for what is called the Eurofighter really starts in 1981 after the European Combat Fighter[ECF] project collapsed. Almost from the start, problems started to emerge in the newly reconstituted project. While the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany agreed that an empty weight of 9.500Kg was a minimum in 1985; France tried to get an even lower weight agreed to since their pre-existing ACX was a lightweight. The other nations balked at it and France withdrew to pursue the ACX, which became the Rafale. Let me backtrack for a second since France was not the only problem country. In 1983 Germany pulled completely out of the project only to return to the fold in 1985 just in time to see France permanently pull out.
At Farnborough in 1986 the world actually saw the French Rafale fly along with a trial version of the Eurofighter built in the UK called the Experimental Aircraft Programme[EAP]. In form it pointed to what the Typhoon would become just as Panavia’s ACA pointed towards the EAP’s shape, but the EAP was only a prototype just to prove the concept was not dead in light of the French defection. From 1986 until 1992 major turbulence seemed to vanish from the project. But in 1992 Germany got walloped by the costs of reunification; this coupled with the vanishing of the Soviet threat allowed Germany to wonder aloud whether it needed the Eurofighter at all. But with negotiations, Germany stayed aboard and the Eurofighter kept going in a simpler form. On March 27th, 1994 the first prototype Eurofighter flew, from ironically Germany; ten days later the first UK prototype DA.2 flew. And on June 6th, 1995 the third plane took off from where it was built in Italy.
But wait dear readers, the much vaunted Eurofighter was not out of the woods yet. In 1997 another spanner entered the works. All of the countries reduced the number of airframes they wanted to buy which in turn would impact the workshare split among the countries. So once again things were in danger of collapse but things were worked out and the workshares were reallocated and Germany agreed to buy 40 more aircraft than they wanted.
Finally in 1998 one of the more vexing problems to afflict the project was resolved, though some were still not happy. The consortium finally selected a real name for the airplane. You dear readers have already suffered through ECF, ACA, EAP, ACX, and Eurofighter 2000. Well they selected the name Typhoon for the new fighter. Which caused some puckered faces across Europe since the last aircraft named Typhoon was an RAF fighter that proved to be a horrible fighter but an effective gun platform for killing Germans on the ground in WWII. In Germany the fighter will be called Taifun, whether named after the almost forgotten Bf.108 Taifun or just because Taifun and Typhoon sound similar I do not know.
As for price tag on what is supposed to be 620 airframes split amongst the nations, it might be approximately $32 billion US. But the RAF page has a jaw dropper in it: “Well it must be remembered that no standard Eurofighter exists, each nation can modify the basic system to fit their requirements.” In 2003, Austria placed an order for 18 Typhoons though in 2005 Typhoon was not selected in the fighter competition conducted by the Royal Singapore Air Force.
Only now in 2005 have fully mission capable Typhoons started to enter service. Though judging by a very bellicose reaction from the official Eurofighter site when Der Spiegel called into question this capability, that maybe a premature assumption also.
As for the French Rafale, it has entered service with France. And in fact its empty weight has gone through the same growth as the Eurofighter has. The Rafale A variant weighed in at 9.500Kg empty while the navalised Rafale M weighs in at 9.670Kg empty.
Hopefully I have not put people to sleep, but dear Najia wanted to know about an airplane called Typhoon and I was happy to oblige. In hindsight the plane seems aptly named considering how many storms it has weathered or created leading to its production.