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  • Typhoon in a Teapot

    Posted by James R. Rummel on April 21st, 2005 (All posts by )

    The Eurofighter Typhoon was supposed to be a state-of-the-art air superiority fighter plane. Developed as a cooperative effort between the aerospace industries of several European countries, it was envisioned as a project to meet the unique conditions and needs of European military forces and doctrine while keeping costs manageable. This was a good idea, maybe even admirable.

    Ive written a few posts about the Eurofighter over the years. The short answer is that its a waste of money.

    Oh, dont get me wrong. The plane is capable enough, and theres no denying that it would perform its combat role if called upon. But its apparent that the performance of the Eurofighter is startlingly similar to an American F-16 while having a sticker price 8 times that of the US warplane.

    European defense budgets have eroded so much that the powers-that-be decided to sell off the first run of Eurofighters at greatly reduced prices in order to generate some badly needed cash. This is sort of like selling the new family car at a loss in order to make the payments.

    Unfortunately, even that isnt working out as planned. Janes Defence reports that Singapore has formally announced that they wont consider the plane for purchase. In other words, dont let the door hit you in the backside.

    Im waiting to see which aircraft Singapore decides to buy. If its old Soviet designs then the blow to European prestige is going to be pretty significant.

     

    9 Responses to “Typhoon in a Teapot”

    1. incognito Says:

      Interesting reads, thanks for the info.

    2. Brian Says:

      I wonder if the Chinese are queing up for the Typhoon? Seriously, though – what an amazing statement of affairs that the RAF would have to sell its newest aircraft! That is simply amazing – and a real statement of the pressures that the British military is under right now.

    3. Phil Fraering Says:

      I wonder if they’ll ever consider selling them to Taiwan…

    4. Andy B Says:

      Apparently, the plane isn’t the only thing they are selling: http://www.eurofighter-collection.com/shop/

    5. Giles Says:

      8 times the price? The Typhoon costs 60 million where can you buy a F16 for 8 million dollars? I think you meant twice the price.

      Still as you say the Euro fighter is just a F16 with canards – the RAF has therefore realised that it’s performance is not good enough to Dominate the skies as an air superiority fighter – its better suited to a genenral purpose fighter bomber – like the F16.

      So it wants to get rid of the Tranche 1 Typhoons which are designed for air superiority and buy just the Tranche 3 general purpose ground attack version. This is I think neither desperate nor stupid.

      NB you may recall that the Origional WW2 Typhoon was origionally designed as an air superiority fighter but found its role as a ground attack aircraft. History repeats its self.

    6. James R. Rummel Says:

      8 times the price? The Typhoon costs 60 million where can you buy a F16 for 8 million dollars? I think you meant twice the price.

      If you read my original post on the subject, you’ll see that the entire project is pegged with 600 aircraft produced for a total cost of 50 billion English pounds. My handy dandy calculator says that the cost per unit is 83 million pounds, or about $170 million USD.

      Giles is right if he’s saying that I miscalculated the per-unit cost of an F-16. I had thought that they were $23 million USD each, but it seems that they’re actually about $30 million USD.

      But compare this with the F-22 Raptor, the next generation air superiority fighter. The project has received a great deal of criticism due to a cost of $47 million USD per, with many members of Congress claiming that this is just way too high for what we’ll get.

      Giles’ could very well have pointed out something that I missed, though. The 50 billion pounds could have been already pissed away, and the governments involved have to now find further funding per aircraft. This makes it even more wasteful and expensive.

      So it wants to get rid of the Tranche 1 Typhoons which are designed for air superiority and buy just the Tranche 3 general purpose ground attack version. This is I think neither desperate nor stupid.

      Between the 2 of them, India and Pakistan are negotiating for a production run of 175 brand new F-16s. Seems to me that the really smart move would be to chuck the whole Eurofighter mess and simply buy the plane that has the biggest bang for your buck. That way everyone would have a fighter that’s been proven in combat, and the US could handle any R&D costs so your planes would stay cutting edge with upgrades.

      After all, even if the Eurofighter is just as good as an F-16 right now, it won’t stay that way for too many years.

      James

    7. Giles Says:

      No James I dont think that the F16 is better than the Euro fighter in any aspect (on paper).

      Simple platform advantages of the Euro fighter has over the F16 are 1) twice the thrust to weight ratio and half the wing loading i.e. much more memorable 2) capable of super cruise 3) Faster instantaneous turn rate (faster even than F22) 4) more stealth. I think most studies have conclude that the Typhoon is (potentially) better than anything on sale at the moment DERA for instance gave it 4.5:1 advantage against the SU-35 vs. F16 0.3:1.

      for something to be worth calling an next generation the rule of thumb is that its got to be 10 times better than what exists at the moment and the Typhoons isnt and wont ever be (the F22 clearly is it got 10:1 in the study).

      Still it would be crazy for the RAF to buy an aircraft the F16 – that equips half of the second/third world and hence is the potential enemy; theyve got to go for something thats better to maintain their credibility – which means the Typhoon even if its only for the next 5 years (after which I suspect theyll try to buy some F22s). Buying F16 now would be pointless especially since the JSF its replacement – turns up in 5 years time.

      Now I agree the Typhoon may not be worth paying twice the price for – Im working with usually quoted the figure of 63 dollar or euros million a piece. But of course this figure depends on what the final production run is just like the F22 140 million a piece on the current order but less than 100 if the original order is fulfilled.

      But the RAF have to buy something better than the vanilla F16 which is pretty much coming to the end of its life. The super hornet is an alternative but at 50 million not much of a saving for the loss of domestic aircraft building expertise. And maintenance of a domestic manufacturer is strategically important and worth paying for just as long that next time the government learns its lesson and ensures that there is no multilateral project like the Typhoon or Tornado.

      But turning to the strategic side the real problem is that the general purpose fighter market is very crowded at the moment and this is primarily a result of the French (correctly in my opinion) splitting from the Euro-fighter project in the 80s to produce the Rafael. This has resulted in 2 nearly identical planes being produced in Europe and 2 sets of government bearing the huge development fixed costs. And it think that this is where the pressure to lift the ban on exports to China has come fromFrances best hope of recouping the Rafael huge fixed costs comes from the market where it doesnt have to compete with the cheap and cheerful F16. So in a way Im hoping that Singapore buys the Rafael to take some of the pressure here off.

    8. Jimbo Says:

      Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons, temporarily operating from Nellis AFB, Nev., were able to pick up U.S. Air Force F/A-22s on their radars, stealth notwithstanding. Similar reports appeared during the 1991 Iraq war concerning the ability of British ships, using large radar arrays, to detect the F-117 and, in later conflicts, the B-2. U.S. officials confirm that the Typhoons were at Nellis to fly with the 422nd Test & Evaluation Sqdn. So they cant be all bad now can they?

    9. Ryan Says:

      The eurofighter is alot more advanced than the F16 and it isnt 8 times more expensive, but rather 6. This was due the fact that the plane incorporates alot more newer technology than the F16 for example, a better see first shoot first capability and an advanced avionics system. It has been proven that the typhoon has a much better kill ratio than the F16 and 4300 F16s have been produced and sold, keeping the price down to to the large supply. Besides, the new JSF F35 will be 80 million, &20 million more than the typhoon. Even though Singapore pulled out of the deal, the plane still generated alot of interest and South Africa have oredered the aircraft for their airforce. The typhoon is the most advanced air craft in the world, so don’t let the price put you off.