A pair of Austrian Air Force Eurofighters over Innsbruck (Image © Markus Zinner / Bundesheer)

New Eurofighter flaws, Austria wants pull-out

A pair of Austrian Air Force Eurofighters over Innsbruck (Image © Markus Zinner / Bundesheer)
A pair of Austrian Air Force Eurofighters over Innsbruck (Image © Markus Zinner / Bundesheer)

One of Europe’s now and future main frontline jets, the Eurofighter EF2000 (Typhoon), experiences severe turbulence again. While many of the jets are already non-flyable or in less then the planned combat state with the air forces of Germany, the United Kingdom and supposedly also Spain, Italy, Austria and Saudi Arabia, new production flaws have been found that might seriously shorten the aircraft’s service life. Austria is even looking for a bold way out of its whole Eurofighter deal, using possible bribery as an excuse.

While the UK and Saudi Arabia are still happily not slowing down their purchase plans, the other countries flying the Eurofighter have stopped acceptance of new planes for now. Reason: flaws have been spotted in the rear end of the fuselage. While sources within the Eurofighter consortium say those manufacture errors don’t effect the air worthiness of the aircraft already flying, Eurofighter spokespersons admitted that components in the planes delivered will only last a third of what was expected of them. This means the planes need to go into maintenance more often, need an immediate fix or have to undergo overhaul sooner. That will increase the costs of the jets for those countries paying also for the development of the jets: Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy. Tax payers in those countries already pay top dollar, an estimated 205 million per unit, while the off-the-shelve price is roughly US$ 149 million.

Calculated fuel consumptions run into the 18,000 dollar per flight hour, according to documents from the British government. Cheaper than the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with US$ 24,500 per hour, slightly more than the French Rafale at 16,500 dollar, but rather expensive if one looks at the F-16 (US$ 7,000) or Swedish-made SAAB JAS 39 Gripen (US$ 4,700).

Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Austria
Austria has long been looking for excuses to pull-out of the special deal it made in 2003 with the Eurofighter consortium for flying 15 of the jets. The Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte paid about US$ 110 million for each jet, but under much pressure to cut the operating costs of the armed forces the number of active fighter pilots has already been reduced to 12, less then the number of jets delivered. Whether that has been influenced by some of the Eurofighters already grounded by either lack of funds for maintenance or technical issues is unclear.

Austrian Defence Minister Gerald Klug said on Friday 3 October 2014 that his department is looking into legal ways to leave the Eurofighter, officially on the grounds of alleged bribery – something that came up during public reviews of the Eurofighter deal in 2012. “I will pursue the best possible result for the tax payer if there is a legal opportunity to do so”, Klug said during a press conference announcing a 243 million dollar cut in the costs of the Austrian defences. Vienna plans to reduce the number of personnel in the armed forces by 1,400 (6%).

United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has found another solution to cope with the Eurofighter issues. The Royal Air Force will keep its No 2 Squadron flying aging and not so cost-efficient Tornado GR4s until at least April 2016. That’s a year longer than originally planned. The RAF’s Typhoons are not ready yet to pick up the ground attack role in a real combat scenario like the operations against ISIS in Iraq. Germany has made similar plans.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai participating at the Dubai (UAE) airshow. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)
A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai participating at the Dubai (UAE) airshow. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)