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HomeDefenseSpain buys 20 Eurofighters in $2.15B deal to replace F-18s

Spain buys 20 Eurofighters in $2.15B deal to replace F-18s

The HALCON version of the Eurofighter. (Credit: Airbus)

PARIS: Spain has signed a €2.043bn ($2.15bn) contract with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for 16 single-seater and four twin-seater Eurofighter combat aircraft to replace the F-18 fleet operated by the Spanish Air Force on the Canary Islands.

The contract was signed during the ILA Berlin Airshow by Carlo Mancusi, the CEO of Eurofighter and General Miguel Ángel Martín, director general of NETMA who signed on behalf of the Spanish government, and was witnessed by Secretary of State Amparo Valcarce representing the Spanish Defense Ministry.

Known as the Halcon program, the order will cover the delivery of a fleet of E-Scan (Electronically Scanned) radar equipped fighter aircraft. The acquisition was approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers on 14 December 2021 and includes the aircraft, engines, a simulator and the necessary support services.

The order is the fourth tranche of deliveries of the Eurofighter, also known as the Typhoon, to Spain, which has already taken delivery of 73. However, because four of the aircraft have crashed (in 2002, 2010, 2014 and 2017) it now has 69 left. The delivery of the 20 signed for today will bring the Spanish fleet up to 89.

Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said in a statement that “this additional order reinforces Spain’s commitment not only towards the Eurofighter but also to its development and industrial environment. I would like to thank the customer for its firm position with respect to European defense at a time when it is needed most.” Airbus Defence and Space owns 46% of the Eurofighter consortium, while BAE Systems owns 33% and Italy’s Leonardo the remaining 21%.

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The twin-engine Typhoon, developed by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain in the late 1980s, is one of three fifth-generation fighter aircraft developed in Europe at the end of the 20th Century — the others being France’s Rafale and Sweden’s Gripen. Despite its recognized capabilities, the aircraft has struggled on the export market, logging 681 aircraft orders to nine nations since the first production contract was signed in January 1998.

Apart from the four nations that developed it, who together have ordered 530 of the aircraft (Germany 181, the UK 160, Italy 96 and Spain 93), the Typhoon has only been successfully delivered to Austria (15), Oman (12), Saudi Arabia (72) and Kuwait, which has received four of the 28 it has ordered. Qatar is scheduled to receive the first of the 24 it has ordered later this year.

The Typhoon has been operational in Spain since 2003, and the country’s air force operates the aircraft from the air bases of Morón (11th Wing) and Albacete (14th Wing), securing Spain’s territory and playing a key role at the heart of NATO in different air policing missions in the Baltics and, more recently, the Black Sea.

The Spanish Eurofighter is assembled, tested and delivered at the Airbus Getafe site just outside Madrid. The program provides more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Spain alone, according to Airbus. Indra and ITP Aero, two of Spain’s principal defense and technological companies will get a large chunk of the workshare, the former working on the avionics and radar and the latter as part of the consortium which makes the EJ200 motors.

The Halcon version of the aircraft is an improved and modernized version of those Typhoons already in the Spanish inventory, which the Spanish Air Force is upgrading to facilitate the interoperability between the fleet. Airbus has been working at Getafe with the Armament and Experimental Logistics Centre (CLAEX) of the Spanish Air Force on various modifications such as the implementation of the new CM02+ software package for the Tranche 1 Eurofighters, Airbus said. A major tactical improvement offered by this software is the new capacity for automatic targeting of air-to-surface weapons following integration of the Litening-III targeting pod. Further air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities have also been introduced, along with improvements to the communications systems, according to Airbus.

The F-18s stationed with the Spanish Air Force’s 46th Wing on the Gando Base on the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, which the Typhoons will replace, were bought from the US Navy second-hand and are scheduled to be retired in 2024. But first deliveries of the 20 Typhoons are not expected until 2026.

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