Spain lands F-18s and strains its Eurofighter Getafe factory
The Halcon initiative welcomed a significant development in June 2022, when Spain signaled its intentions to further its militaristic prowess through the acquisition of 20 additional Eurofighter EF2000 combat aircraft, an investment estimated at €2 billion. Notably, these new warbirds have a dedicated purpose – to displace the aging F/A-18 Hornet from its reign.
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- Spanish F-18s remain in Romania for at least another 90 days
A historical reiteration from BulgarianMilitary.com reminds us that back in the climacteric year of 1990, the US Navy divested the F/A-18 towards the Spanish Air Force, subsequently equipping their 46th squadron stationed in the Canary Islands. The urgency behind this deal stemmed from the aircraft’s inability to receive upgrades in contrast to the fifty other variants of the same model managed by the 12 and 15 Squadrons.
Fast forward more than a year, Madrid has its sights set on augmenting its order with the Eurofighter consortium. Explicitly, on September 12, the Spanish government crystallized its aspirations to obtain 25 additional EF-2000s. An important aspect of this acquisition will be the propulsion of these aircraft to the Tranche 4 standard. A step in this direction suggests equipping these jets with an advanced AESA CAPTOR-E electronic scanning active antenna radar along with a Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.
However, Spain’s movement from the F/A-18s to the advanced Eurofighters will be a progressive journey, not a sudden leap. Madrid’s strategy includes maintaining the operationality of the US aircraft until at least 2030. The estimated investment for this fresh acquisition is said to hover around the 1.4 billion euros mark.
In consideration of fiscal considerations and strategic planning, the expenditure limit allocated for the Halcon program is anticipated to be escalated, reaching approximately 4.6 billion euros from 2023 through 2035. This financial provision is expected to cater to not only the procurement of an additional twenty-five EF-2000s but also the requisite needs of the program’s initial phase that had hitherto been financially under-supported.
At present, the Spanish Air Force maintains an arsenal of 69 Eurofighter EF-2000s, with the distribution of these aircraft succinctly divided into 17 belonging to Tranche 1 [the oldest version], 32 to Tranche 2, and the remaining 20 to Tranche 3. The proposed order signifies an augmentation in this total, pushing it up to 114 units in total.
The F-35 is also an option
Published plans reveal that the proposed order from Madrid is set to stimulate the operations of the Airbus factory in Getafe, placing a strain on its productive capacity. This implies additional business spurred for the British group BAE Systems, which holds the responsibility for manufacturing over a third of the components for every Spanish-bound Eurofighter.
However, contemplating the potential shift in Madrid’s strategic positioning towards its fighter jet fleet, additional fighter-bombers may be required as substitutes for the F/A-18 Hornets. This inference suggests the potential placement of a third order for the Eurofighter EF-2000 shortly. Alternatively, Madrid may elect to explore different aircraft, especially considering the SCAF will not likely be operational until 2040.
This scenario was projected by the daily newspaper El Pais in August 2022. The report stated: “For the Spanish Air Force, there is no contest: the preferable choice is the F-35 Lightning II. With a comparably priced tag as that of the Eurofighter, it presents a markedly superior performance,” the publication concluded.
The Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 4 aircraft offers several advancements over its older versions. One significant improvement is its enhanced avionics system. The Tranche 4 incorporates state-of-the-art technology, including advanced radar systems, improved electronic warfare capabilities, and upgraded communication systems.
Another key area where the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 4 excels is in its performance and maneuverability. The aircraft features a more powerful engine, which results in improved speed, climb rate, and acceleration. Additionally, the Tranche 4 has enhanced aerodynamics, allowing for better maneuverability and agility in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
The Tranche 4 version also boasts enhanced weapon systems. It can carry a wider range of advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, providing increased flexibility and firepower. The Tranche 4 also incorporates improved targeting systems, which enhance the accuracy and precision of its weapons.
Furthermore, the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 4 focuses on reducing its overall lifecycle costs. It incorporates improved maintenance and support systems, which result in reduced downtime and increased availability for missions. The Tranche 4 also benefits from improved fuel efficiency, leading to lower operational costs.
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