Sunday, June 19, 2005

Is Typhoon/Taifun a house of cards?

Rummaging around the Internet some more about Eurofighter Typhoon.

The prognosis is not good. Started by reading through news articles posted on the RAF Eurofighter web-site. My curiosity was piqued by export orders. Or the lack of export orders I should say.

British Aerospace and Eurofighter GmbH proudly talk about an order of 18 Typhoons to Austria. What they call an export order. It must be pretty humbling to Eurofighter GmbH that their only export order so far is for 18 aircraft when they had at one time much higher hopes. On November 24 2004, Greece after tallying the cost of the Olympics and a change in government cancelled what was supposed to be the first export order for the Typhoon totaling 60 to 90 aircraft. Can we say ouch?

Norway was another potential market with their fleet of F-16s getting long in the tooth and it seemed for awhile Norway would order thirty Typhoons, but Norway has pushed back at least six years their search for a new fighter and instead will modernize its F-16s. This push back means Norway has positioned itself for the F-35 JSF, which has turned out to be Typhoon's main nemesis for export sales. On a side-note, in order not to annoy any of their allies, Norway is involved in both Typhoon and F-35 programs in a sub-contractor role.

Australia is another potential customer for Typhoon, but they have signed up for the F-35 JSF program which is expected to have a production run of 3000+ airframes. The Netherlands was also offered the Typhoon, but decided in 2002 to stick with the development of the F-35 with a possible order of 85 F-35s to replace its F-16s. In comparison Typhoon's planned production run is only 620 airframes, made up of three production batches which are called Tranches. And Netherlands' aircraft were supposed to come from the third Tranche.

With countries like Greece canceling, Norway delaying, and Netherlands and Australia alinging with the F-35; the potential export markets for Typhoons is shrinking. So Eurofighter GmbH set its sights on Saudi Arabia, India, and Singapore to sell Typhoons there.

Due to internal unrest and American military realignment, the much depended upon Saudi arms market has gone soft. Yes there is talk of Saudi Arabia buying 50 to 100 Typhoons, but there is nothing in writing for an order as of this date. To quote Aloysuis Rauen, head of Eurofighter GmbH, "There are currently no ongoing talks, but the Saudis are very interested." And the failing health of King Faud and the power vacuum that could happen upon his death, this will probably further delay any decision for a new fighter.

India is shopping around for something to replace all 120 locally produced MiG-21/23s which are crashing far too often. The field of choice is Rafale[there is a naval version and India has two Harrier carriers along with a Kiev class carrier-cruiser], late model F-16s, more MiG-29s, JAS 39 Gripen, or Typhoon; India right now it seems is favoring twin-engined aircraft which knocks the F-16 and the JAS 39 Gripen out of the running. With the JAS 39 Gripen out, British Aerospace is no longer in conflict of interest since it markets the JAS 39 Gripen and the Typhoon.

The Singapore market of ten to twenty airframes does not seem that vital, but after all the other setbacks Typhoon has suffered it was assuming major importance for the whole export market idea of Eurofighter GmbH. And now that Singapore has rejected the Typhoon and has narrowed the field of candidates to either Rafale[another plane looking for sales] or the Boeing F-15[a plane with over 1600 sales] the whole future for export Typhoons is very cloudy.

To add to the worry about the whole Typhoon program I found this article on PSEKA. Found confirmation to what this writer is talking about [that Eurofighter GmbH was betting to roll export orders into the already programmed third Tranche since it did not expect the consortium to buy their full allotments] in the story about the stalled Netherlands order from Aviation Week in 2002 when they also talk about 'softness' in the third Tranche order. As for speculation, if the third Tranche is really intended for export and none happen except those 18 to Austria; then what happens to per unit cost once the production lines shut down prematurely and the Eurofighter GmbH consortium has to recoup all the expenses it amortized over an expected 620 plane production run? Who will be stuck holding the bag?

Maybe they should have named the Eurofighter EF 2000 the Tempest instead.

Updated 1327GMT June 20th 2005 by adding information on Netherlands non-participation and third Tranche problems.


Myrtus said...

Thank you Anna for yet another outstanding post! (:
I am so impressed with how you seem to weed through the Euro rubble with ease.....and "make sense" out of it all, that's a huge task in itself. BRAVO!

Anna said...

Well the more I look around Eurofighter the more confused I get.

Tranche 3 is supposed to be 236 airframes that have all the capabilities the aircraft is supposed to have. Tranche 1 was minimun capabilities for conversion and totaled 148 airframes. Tranche 2 with 236 airframes was cleared for air to air missions with modest improvements to ground attack options found in Tranche 1 aircraft.

So for there to be 'softness' in Tranche 3 back in 2002 does not make sense since they are the most mission capable. Plus it leaves my head scratching as to whether Tranche 1&2 are supposed to be upgraded to Tranche 3 standards and have the costs been figured out yet. I might find info on upgrades if I root around the RAF site some more.

Have also found as late as 04 Farnborough Air Show Eurofighter GmbH talking of 620 airframes with a possible extra 90 aircraft. So that might explain where Austria's 18 comes from. Still leaves upto 72 begging for homes assuming the four nations buy all 236 of Tranche 3. And in same interview at Farnborough, Eurofighter GmbH stated per unit price was based on a production run of 620 and anything less could cause the price to unravel.

Anna said...

Okay looking around some more, found an MoD paper from 2002 that talked about the RAF possibly reducing its order by 52 airframes to match the German order of 180 airframes. So that might have given rise to comments of softness in Tranche 3.

But this all might be moot as Typhoon prices itself right out of the export market. $16billionUS has been committed to Tranche 2 production of 236 airframes which equals $67.8 million per plane. In comparison South Korea's F-15K costs $105 million a copy, F-16C Block 50s run $25 million a copy, the F/A-18E/F Block 2 costs $40 million a copy, and people think the Rafale costs $60 million a copy. So Typhoon is heading into the upper end of the price range and unlike the F-15 it has no combat record to back it up.

Who knows what the price could be if Tranche 3 is curtailed. Sky is the limit, but national budgets are not unlimited.

King said...


Very curious about how you have so much knowledge in the air-to-air arena...what is your history/experience?

F-15E pilot currently on exchange with the RAF. Enjoyed your blogs...where did you get the information about the Eurofighter against the Strike Eagles? From a Brit, no doubt. It is comedy