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F-22 may live on: Cheap secondhand Eurofighters on offer

Classic jet for sale, one careful owner, hardly flown

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Classic Cold War fighter jet for sale, hardly flown, one careful owner, lack of hangar space forces sale, all offers considered

However most of the Eurofighter partner nations so far are feeling a bit overstocked with Tranche 1 and 2, principally air-to-air Eurofighters. They'd rather have fleets made up mainly of late Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 aircraft, more useful in the post-Cold War world. The UK has already succeeded in shifting 24 of its planes to Saudi Arabia, though it had to make them newer Tranche 2 ones - and agree to let the Saudis build more Eurofighters themselves. Rumour at the Paris Airshow this week had it that the UK may soon clinch another deal to sell Eurofighters to Oman, though details are sketchy.

Now, in an attempt to get the partner nations to sign up for some Tranche 3 planes before the summer break and elections in Germany, the Eurofighter consortium has agreed that all the participant nations can sell off their existing planes second-hand. Formerly the manufacturers would have opposed this, probably with contractual agreement to back them up, as they would have hoped to make and sell more planes for worldwide export after filling the partner nations' requirements.

But the consortium execs seem to have accepted that they'll have to sacrifice possible future sales to the likes of Oman and Romania if they want to get Tranche 3 developed. It can't help but hurt the Eurofighter's sales prospects to have the market flooded at such an early stage with second-hand planes, many of them scarcely flown and priced to sell.

That said, Tranche 3 Eurofighter should be a much more exportable plane as it will be more useful than the already obsolescent early models now overfilling European armouries. The Euro aerospace execs still have their eyes on the future: by sacrificing a few sales to relatively cash-strapped buyers now, they hope to stay in the game long term.

Meanwhile the effect of Raptor production continuing in the US is to cloud the future of the F-35 somewhat and raise the prospect that the US armed services may not buy the cheaper stealth jet in such large numbers. That could push its price up, and make export Eurofighters look like a better buy. Of course, the House Committee's decision must pass through many other stages before it sticks. Just how strongly President Obama is ready to back SecDef Gates will become apparent as the process moves on.

All in all though, probably a happy week for the global fighter industry: perhaps not such a happy one for the Western taxpayers who have to stump up for these expensive machines. ®

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