Today the Eurofighter Typhoon’s manufacturer, Eurofighter GmbH and NETMA have signed a €5.4 Billion defence aviation contract with the German government. The contract will involve the delivery of 38 Eurofighter Tranche 4 variants to the German Luftwaffe to replace the Luftwaffe’s current decaying Tranche 1 variants. The contract has been managed by NATO’s Eurofighter & Tornado Management Agency, a body charged with managing the Euro-fighter’s development. The agency was previously charged with the management of all things related to 1979’s Panavia Tornado jet fighter. The Eurofighter programme stems from 1983’s Future European Fighter multi-national Aircraft. The Eurofighter programme has been managed by the Eurofighter GmbH company established in 1986 representing France, UK and British interests at a shareholding distribution of 46%, 33% and 21% respectively. The multi-national manufacturing firm only produces Eurofighter Typhoons. The Eurofighter has been produced in four versions termed ‘tranches’ from 2002 and 2018. The deal signed today comes off of the back of approval for the contract by the Budgetary Committee of the German Parliament earlier this week. The contract was presented to the German Parliament under the direction of Minister of Defence, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The German project to integrate the 38 Tranche 4 Eurofighters is termed the Quadriga project with the objective or restoring the capabilities of Germany’s neglected military aviation. The order is expected to be in service beyond the 2060s.
The variants ‘tranches’ of the Eurofighter Typhoon all share the common Eurofighter base. The body of the Eurofighter Typhoon is constructed from 70% carbon fibre composites and 12% fibre glass reinforces composites. The combination results in a lightweight frame contributing to a high speed performance and increased acrobatic potential. The potential is increased due to the intentional instability of the platform, reducing the craft’s ability to right itself automatically through the action of the air on the machine. The fly-by-wire operation then works to reduce the overall weight of the craft and increases the machine’s rate of response due to the withdrawal of the need for directly connected hydraulics. The installation of pitch controlling canards and a yaw commanding rudder on the craft give it the ability to control the airflow around the vessel, increases this already impressive presence of agility boosting features. The speed and agility is joined by a stealth capacity formed by radar signature reduction features, to create a holy trinity of fighter jet performance. The radar signature reduction features come in the shape of air intake placement in front of the engines, swept wings for radar wave reflection and hardpoint weaponry concealed in semi-recessed mountings. The vehicle also has a layer of radar absorbent materials used in the platform’s construction. The fighter is powered by two Eurojet EJ200 after-burning turbofan engines producing 60 – 80 Newtons of thrust each processing 75 – 77kg of air per second, granting a speed of Mach 1.25 (950mph) at sea level and Mach 2.0+ (1,320mph) at 11,000m.
The variants differ only in the weapons and avionics which they carry. The first variant, Tranche 1 came as the default vehicle in 2002/3. The Tranche 1 came in block II & V, the finalized Tranche 1 model came with air-defence capabilities, air-to-air capabilities and eventually air-to-ground capabilities. Tranche 2 came in 2004, this time in three blocks, VIII, X and XV. The first block introduced a new mission computer and implemented sensor fusion, the second improved the system’s defensive capabilities, added a new IFF module and allowed for the use of Raytheon’s air-to-air AIM missile family. The air-to-air capability was further enhanced through the installation of MBDA’s Meteor missiles. The introduction of Rafael’s Litening III targeting pod gave the platform excellent control over its nearby battlespace. The ground attack capabilities, previously criticized for being below par, were expanded through the addition of the Taurus, Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles. Tranche 3 variants, released in 2018 form Eurofighter GmbH’s latest disclosed offering. The Tranche 4, ordered through today’s contract does not yet have its specifications released. Tranche 4’s however are expected to be an advancement on Tranche 3’s existing systems. The Tranche 3’s saw the addition of the Euroradar CAPTOR AESA along with the latest iteration of Rafael’s Litening series i.e. Litening IV & V. Tranche 3 craft increase the platform’s ground attack capabilities by adding an anti-ship capacity in the form of the MARTE-ER 70kg armour piercing HE missile. The trend towards greater ground warfare capabilities, in the endeavour to improve its ability to execute tasks as a multi-role craft, is likely to continue into Tranche 4 craft. The Luftwaffe’s reception of the craft will improve its compatibility with other NATO members and forms the latest in a series of German military acquisitions, designed to bring her up to date with other European militaries.