Airbus boosts India’s MRFA contest with advanced Eurofighter offering

In the fierce competition for India’s colossal Medium Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft [MRFA] procurement, Airbus is casting its lot with its latest version of the Eurofighter Typhoon. With its Tranche 5 variant, Airbus promises a dramatic increase in capability, ensuring a position in the procurement of 114 jets that India is eager to acquire. 

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The Block 5 Eurofighter is equipped with a multitude of advanced features such as the E-Scan active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar, which sets it apart from its competitors. This top-grade sensor grants superior situational awareness and target-tracking ability, crucial for contemporary air combat scenarios. Beyond its technical advantages, the Eurofighter boasts advanced defensive mechanisms and a human-machine interface [HMI] designed to enhance the operational efficiency of the pilot. 

However, Airbus isn’t content resting on its laurels. Their Tranche 5 model incorporates elements from the ongoing Long Term Evolution [LTE] package. This developmental initiative focuses on exploring advancements in mission systems, pilot interfaces, operational flexibility, and engine performance.

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Photo: Eurofighter Typhoon

The new avionics

The avionics within the Eurofighter are slated for a massive revamp, with state-of-the-art hardware and software being introduced to uphold its rank as a premier combat aircraft. The strides made in LTE not only boost the Eurofighter’s abilities, they also pave the way for Europe’s Future Combat Air System [FCAS]. The Eurofighter is anticipated to play a crucial role in this forthcoming air combat network.

Moving beyond its cutting-edge technology, the Eurofighter is a formidable force. The proposed Indian model will boast a potent assortment of air-to-air missiles, including the likes of AMRAAM, ASRAAM, IRIS-T, and the reliable AIM-9L. What’s more, the jet is capable of carrying a diverse range of laser-guided bombs, ensuring adaptability for a wide array of battlefield situations.

Airbus boosts India's MRFA contest with advanced Eurofighter offering
Photo credit: BAE Systems

The Eurofighter’s capabilities stretch to long-range missions too, with external fuel tanks that have been certified for supersonic flights. Plus, the aircraft is approved for air-to-air refueling with multiple tanker types, guaranteeing a prolonged operational range.

Rafale is still cheaper

With its advanced features, future-proof design, and proven weapons systems, Airbus’ Tranche 5 Eurofighter presents a compelling case for India’s MRFA tender. Last time around in the MRCA tender, the Eurofighter lost out to the Rafale on price, but not on technical merit. The Rafale’s cost-effectiveness stems from several factors, primarily derived from the diverging design philosophies and production strategies employed by the manufacturers. The Eurofighter Typhoon is a multinational effort, with companies from four different countries — the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain — involved in its development. 

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This collaborative approach, while beneficial in certain aspects, often leads to inflated costs due to the complexities of coordinating production across nations, each with unique industrial policies and practices. Moreover, the Typhoon was specifically designed with a focus on air superiority. This required the inclusion of high-end – and oftentimes more expensive – technologies. 

Eurofighter needs orders

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Photo credit: RAF

Recently, an intriguing report caught our attention: the Eurofighter Economic Impact Assessment report. Compiled by Strategy&, a branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers [PwC], this report outlines a “growth scenario” suggesting potential sales of up to 287 new aircraft, some of which include contracted but not-yet-delivered planes. 

Released to the public by the Eurofighter consortium on April 9, the report envisions the potential sale of hundreds more versatile combat aircraft to both exporting nations and consortium partners. The report specifies that a “base scenario,” involving the current fleet of 680 jets across nine nations, plus 83 upcoming Quadriga and Halcon I/II purchases for Germany and Spain respectively, would just maintain a bare minimum production rate for a couple of years. However, it states, “additional domestic and export contracts are crucial.” 

PwC estimates that, besides the 38 Quadriga and 45 Halcon I/II jets already in the pipeline, an additional 74 partner nation and 130 export nation sales will be needed to sustain production across the final assembly factories located in Manching in Germany, Caselle in Italy, Getafe in Spain, and Warton in the UK. The competition for India’s MRFA contract is expected to be intense. Still, Airbus is determined to position itself as a formidable competitor in modern air warfare with the Eurofighter.

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