Feeds

MoD announces air-to-ground upgrade for Eurofighter

Makes superjet useful; doesn't make it cheap

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet is to receive a major update, gaining the ability to effectively attack ground targets – a thing it currently cannot do. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced today that the governments of Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany have agreed to pay the Eurofighter consortium £830m to sort out the controversial wonder-plane.

“The MoD has taken another significant step to equip the Royal Air Force with the capability it requires by signing a contract to transform RAF Typhoon fighters,” says the MoD, tacitly admitting that the Eurofighter is not what the RAF requires.

Current Eurofighters – when they finally go operational later this year – will be pure air-superiority platforms, good only for fighting other aircraft using advanced missiles such as AMRAAM. They have taken 22 years to develop. The MoD anticipates a final UK procurement cost of £20bn based on 232 planes for the RAF, which would work out at £86m per airframe.

eurofighter on the groundHowever, the RAF only plans to establish seven Typhoon squadrons, which would mean an operational fleet of 140-odd. The remaining 90-plus aircraft would have to be mothballed if 232 were bought. This has already happened in the past with other RAF planes ordered in excessive numbers, such as the Tornado F3 and the Nimrod MR1.

If all 232 are delivered, the cost to the taxpayer per Typhoon in RAF service would be an eye-watering £140m. Understandably, there is speculation that the partner nations may decide to cancel the third tranche of orders. That would result in the UK getting 144 jets and save perhaps £2bn from the total British bill, leaving individual Typhoons price-tagged at £125m each.

No matter how you look at it, the Eurofighter is a very expensive piece of kit and will need to work hard to justify its cost. But air-to-air combat doesn’t crop up all that often nowadays. Military jets spend most of their operational time blowing up targets on the ground. With British troops in Afghanistan calling for airstrikes on an almost daily basis, the RAF will be keen to make sure that its latest toy can get in on the action. The UK’s share of the upgrade bill is reportedly £325m, which puts the cost of fixing up each plane at a mere million or two quid, a snip compared to the cost of buying it in the first place.

This enhancement will certainly make the Eurofighter more useful, but it’s questionable if anything can make it cost-effective. As a comparison, the UK plans to buy US-made F-35 Lightning II strike planes as well. These planes aren’t as manoeuvrable as a Eurofighter, but they can carry AMRAAMs perfectly well. In many ways they’re much better than the European super-jet: they’ll have stealth, for instance, and probably vertical-landing jump-jet capability too.

The price of a Lightning II? Currently estimated below £55m per plane, less than half the likely price of a Eurofighter. Against competition like this, it'll take more than an upgrade to make the Typhoon look like a good deal. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.