The news wouldn’t have mattered much if it weren’t for the most advanced version of the Eurofighter-Typhoon. It has therefore been announced by Italian Leonardo, the lead contractor of the program, that the maiden flight of the first Eurofighter fighter built on behalf of Kuwait has been successfully carried out from Caselle Airport outside of Turin, where the firm’s air operations center is also located.
The ISPA-6 (Instrumented Series Production Aircraft), as it is called by the joint production line, is the first Eurofighter to fly equipped with Active Electronic Scanning Radar (AESA), the Captor E-Scan. It is a very significant development in the Eurofighter-Typhoon program despite being delayed by at least ten years over other fourth- and fifth-generation fighter programs.
In fact, the Eurofighter GmbH consortium that no longer exists as the program for the production and further development of the fighter has come under the jurisdiction of Airbus Military, announced ten years ago (2010!) The development of an AESA system for the Eurofighter, with the prospect of it being available for production and installation even on older version-configured aircraft by 2016. The big problem of course was financing.
That is why the orders of Kuwait and Qatar, in the second half of the decade that expired, came as mana from heaven … The funds that flowed and are about to flow from these two programs into Airbus coffers are both lucrative, and will determine the future of the Eurofighter program.
A fighter that is still substantially backed only by the German government that is about to order new aircraft replacing the Tornado ECRs since it decided to reject the US EA-18G Growler.
The $ 8.7 billion (9,062 according to DefenseNews) contract with Kuwait for the construction and delivery of 28 units (22 single and six two seat) was signed with Finmeccanica on April 5, 2016, including additional items beyond the 28 fighters.
These items include training of personnel (technicians and pilots) in Italy, initial support, construction of support and maintenance facilities at Ali Al Salem air base, where they will operate and construction of a separate building facility that will house a full flight simulator and two operating simulators and weapons.
Also based on the original timetable, the first two aircraft were due to be delivered to Kuwait Air Force during the last quarter of 2019 and the last two within the last quarter of 2022. The Kuwaiti program therefore already has a slight delay.
The fighters to be received will be Tranche 3 modules and will have weapons such as Meteor, Storm Shadow (Scalp-EG) and Brimstone. It has also been announced that Kuwaiti fighters will also be certified to utilize Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Targeting Pod.
This is something that is almost certain to apply to all 18 aircraft to be received by the state of Qatar, since the Rafale fighter the latter has received use the same pod and not the French Talios! Finally, the Kuwaiti fighters will also be equipped with the new Target Data and Aerial Shot Recorder (ACMI), the DRS-Cubic ACMI P5.
The prospects of the Eurofighter-Typhoon program will be far more secure and good for the decade ahead if Saudi Arabia’s plan to acquire 48 more units is finalized (72 fighters already destined for the British RAF have already been acquired).