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Latest Eurofighters boost Spanish Air Force fleet

Photo: Airbus D&S

 

Airbus Defence and Space has delivered a first pair of Eurofighter Typhoons completed to the latest P1Eb FW (Phase 1 Enhanced Further Work) standard. The first two new-build in P1Eb FW configuration were handed over to the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force).

Airbus announced the development yesterday, January 23, noting in a press release that the two Typhoons include increased integration of a variety of air-to-surface weapons and enhanced targeting, among other improvements.

The aircraft were manufactured at the Final Assembly Line in Getafe, Spain. The company describes the P1Eb FW configuration as “a key step in the overall Eurofighter evolution plan.”

The same configuration will be retrofitted to in-service aircraft by other Eurofighter nations.

Spanish procurement agency DGAM took delivery of the aircraft on December 22 and they were subsequently ferried to Albacete air base to enter service. The remaining six of the 73 aircraft currently contracted by Spain will be delivered to the same P1Eb FW standard this year and next.

Airbus Operating Officer, Military Aircraft, Alberto Gutierrez said: “The smooth introduction of these enhanced features is a vital element of Eurofighter’s evolution. It is a big tribute to the Airbus and Spanish customer teams that they achieved this on-time through effective collaboration and clearly demonstrates the rich manufacturing capability here at Getafe.”

DGAM Head of Aeronautical Systems Gen Léon Antonio Machés said: “The entry into service of these aircraft is the outcome of strong collaborative activity between our personnel and those of Airbus. It is an excellent illustration of the technical expertise that will support many more years of Eurofighter industrial activity in Spain.”

Spanish Eurofighters 

Spain initially planned to acquire 87 Eurofighters, but this figure was cut to 73 due to budgetary constraints. The original Tranche 1 airframes are assigned to the training wing at Ala 11 at Morón.

While Spain initially planned its Eurofighters (locally designated C.16s) as air-to-air fighters, the move toward ‘swing-role’ came quickly. Indeed, Spain has actually played a lead role in developing air-to-ground capabilities for the partner nations in the programme, with the 1,000lb EGBU-16 (GBU-48) now cleared on Spanish Tranche 2s.

Eight jets from Spain’s two wings deployed to Exercise Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, last year, and demonstrated the previous P1Eb standard.

By 2021, the Spanish Air Force plans to have two complete wings equipped with the Eurofighter. Alongside 111, 112 and 113 Escuadróns at Morón, Ala 14 at Albacete should be fully equipped with two full squadrons — 141 and 142 Escuadróns.

The latter had received the wing’s first eight Eurofighters by mid-2013, initially in the form of loaned Ala 11 jets, but now with its own jets adorned with the famous Don Quixote badge.

A Spanish Air Force C.16 Typhoon armed with a 1,000lb EGBU-16 (GBU-48) precision-guided bomb. Ejército del Aire/Sergio Ruiz

Software strategy

The Operational Flight Programme (OFP) software development capability pioneered with the Hornets convinced Spain to follow a similar path with its Eurofighters. A decision to develop its own software for its Tranche 1 aircraft is already delivering enhancements with ‘minimum connection to the international effort.’

Concerned by a lack of growth potential within the wider Eurofighter programme when it comes to the early Tranche 1 airframes, the Spanish Air Force opted out of the core plan for the Tranche 1s and instead elected to develop its own OFP 01 and OFP 02 upgrades. While this may appear to illustrate a shortcoming within the core Eurofighter programme, it also usefully demonstrates the ability for a nation to follow an indigenous path if it suits domestic requirements, seemingly without restrictions. It also represents an important organic development capability within the Spanish Air Force and local industry.

Having received the Tranche 1 Enhancement Package 1 and 2 from Eurofighter in 2015, the indigenous OFP 01 was already in development. This includes human-machine interface (HMI) improvements and integration of the digital version of the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, two of which had been test-fired by early 2017. OFP 02 was set for mid-2017 delivery and adds Litening III, GBU-48, AIM-120C-7 and an updated computer symbol generator.

Spain’s Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft are set to remain within the international development programme. P2Eb adds MBDA Meteor, FLIR improvements, T2R radar software, the Drop 4 software package and HMI improvement for the Litening II pod.

P3E and P4E are also planned, with the latter adding Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) enhancements, AIM-120C-7, Small Diameter Bomb II and enhanced IFF modes.

A Spanish Eurofighter takes part in the Tactical Leadership Programme 2017-2 at Albacete. Ejército del Aire/José Antonio Bejarano Espinosa

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