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Eurofighter Typhoon: Not a Top Gun

The Eurofighter was, and still is, not only in Austria the bone of contention. Germany has been working meticulously on the construction of the proposed top gun fighter since 1975. And almost pushed the emergency exit button for the billion Euro project twice.

A Eurofighter Typhoon during a vertical test flight
Picture by Eurofighter

From a standing position it is able to reach a height of 10.000 metres in less than two and a half minutes, and achieve one and a half times the speed of sound. Only the US F/A-22-Fighter has a better thrust to weight ratio. In return the Eurofighter Typhoon is unbeatable regarding its agility. Hence, the pilots wear special liquid conditioned pressure suits to overcome accelerating forces of up to 9 G (during a Space Shuttle take-off only 3 G are reached). The Eurofighter Typhoon is the first series-production ready multipurpose warplane of the so-called fourth generation. It can be controlled via voice, it possesses an automatic self-defence-system and because of special high-tech components stays compatible in spite of darkness and fog.

Imposing key data that understandably fascinate tech-freaks, but poses only one question among the non-freaks who for the same simple economical reasons would never buy a Porsche or Ferrari for themselves: What for?

The possible armoury of a Eurofighter Typhoon
Picture by Eurofighter

Just to recollect: Starting from year 2007 Austria is receiving 18 of these fighter planes at an over all price of almost two billion Euros which are to be repaid during the ensuing two years. A lot of money compared to the life cycle costs of competitive products. And – experts say – Austria bargained poorly. Nevertheless countries participating in the production of the supersonic jet plane ordered 620 Typhoons as a crisis remedy at a comparable price. Even Greece is thinking about a purchase whereas the clever Norwegians intend to participate in the lucrative production of the fighter before thinking about buying it. Momentarily people in Austria basically feel like being bamboozled like tourists after a "great" deal with a carpet dealer at a Turkish basar.

The assembly hangar of the Eurofighter Typhoon (with a yellow protective paint)
Picture by Eurofighter

The only comfort may be that others (especially the Germans) aren't really happy about their new jet fighter either. Ignoring the exultations of politicians just like the Austrians they too ask themselves why they would need a high-tech multipurpose fighter for aerial surveillance in a steady, peaceful Europe. And after all they are unlike Austria a member of NATO.

Our neighbours intended to cancel the deal with France, England and Spain twice (thereby endangering the Airbus-alliance), because the development costs were reaching hair raising proportions. In 1981 Apel, Germanys minister of defence pulled the emergency brake of the "TKF" – "Taktisches Kampfflugzeug für die 90er" ("tactical fighterplane for the 1990's"), as the jet was named according to the first plans from 1975 (!). And also Volker Rühe, Apel's decender from 1992, intended to pull the plug, because of the costs of the "Jäger 90" ("Hunter 90"). Unfortunately there was no escape from the contracts with their partners. The Eurofighter whose first concepts were derived during the cold war when the development of such an all-rounder seemed to be reasonable, had silently taken off.

Pilot of a Eurofighter during the cockpit-check just before a test flight
Picture by Eurofighter

So perception of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the concepts of its forerunner modules had already been varying from "wasted money" to "excellent investment" for more than 25 years. In fact Austria is just a new participant in an very old discussion.

Only two groups are really happy in this no return deal: the about 400 German, French, English, Spanish and soon Norwegian companies that are privileged to produce the Eurofighter's units. And those technology freaks, who will admire Austrias "own" brand new "Ferrari" at the Austrian Air Show, smiling pitily at the no longer used old timer, the Swedish Draken.

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© A report by Tobias Micke (27-07-03) – Contact