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Eurofighter Typhoon: It's EVEN WORSE than we thought

RAF gets just 107 jets – and new budget trainwreck looms

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Analysis Yesterday the UK National Audit Office published a detailed report on the current status of the infamous Eurofighter combat jet – nowadays officially known as Typhoon. We here on the Reg defence desk have always had a low opinion of the cripplingly expensive, marginally useful fighter: but even we were amazed by the new facts and figures. The Eurofighter, almost unbelievably, is turning out to be even worse value for money than we had thought.

A Tranche 1 Eurofighter in RAF service

This plane is new and has just been expensively upgraded.

It will be scrapped soon.

Probably the most dismal figure we are given is that the RAF will actually put into service just 107 Typhoons. At the moment it has received 70: the last of the 160 planes ordered by the UK will be delivered in 2015. But, we are told, "by 2019" all the Tranche 1 jets (which were still being delivered to the RAF at the start of 2008) will be "retired" – that is, thrown away. We'll pay for 160 jets (actually we'll pay for 2321), but we'll only ever get a fleet of 107.

This shows the acquisition cost of the Eurofighter/Typhoon in an even worse light than it had previously appeared, when an RAF fleet of 160 had been expected. It is now acknowledged that the development and production cost to the UK of Eurofighter will be £23bn with planned upgrades.

This means that we UK taxpayers will have shelled out no less than £215m for each of our 107 jets – that's $350m at today's rates, rather more than the US taxpayers have been made to pay for each of their 185 Raptor superfighters2, almost all of which will be used operationally. And the Raptor has third-generation Stealth: the Eurofighter has no stealth features at all. The Raptor has thrust vectoring for unbeatable manoeuvrability in a dogfight: the Eurofighter doesn't.

The Raptor is a hugely more sophisticated and powerful aircraft, and is actually – astonishingly – somewhat cheaper, despite the fact that it is being made in much smaller numbers than the Eurofighter!

That's a really astonishingly bad bit of value for money on our part.

Unfortunately the problems won't be over when the final RAF Typhoons are delivered. There are major problems with spare parts and support, unsurprisingly as the Eurofighter's manufacturing is distributed across Germany, Spain and Italy as well as the UK. The NAO auditors write:

There are indications of problems with the collaborative contracts for the supply of spares and repair of equipment. There have been shortages of spares and long timescales for equipment repairs on some of these contracts ...

The [2008] spares procurement contract does not include penalties for late delivery ...

To compensate, the Department [the MoD] has had to take parts from some of its Typhoon aircraft to make other aircraft available to fly.

Oh, those troublesome foreigners and their ramshackle collaborative arrangements! Who could possibly have been responsible for such a rubbish setup?

... the Department played a central role in establishing the collaborative management structures that still exist today.

As the biggest buyer, it was actually the good old MoD which had the biggest input into setting up the multinational collaboration system – and it seems to have done its usual brilliant job.

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