Implementation of Britain’s “future contracting for availability” approach of paying for machines in service, rather than parts and hours, generally involves a phased set of contracts and agreements. As each party’s understanding the risks and demands grow, the contract’s complexity and comprehensiveness grow as well, and the framework moves closer and closer to the desired goal of a full availability contract. “Britain Hammers Out Through-Life Support Framework for Tornado Fleet” described how this approach works on the ground, and talked about some of the keys to success. “UK’s “Contracting for Availability” Adds Hawks, Looks Ahead” mentioned the MoD’s March 2007 Long Term Partnering Agreement Foundation Contract with BAE Systems, which aims to place all British military aircraft under this kind of framework.
In late 2007, the UK’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet entered Quick Reaction Alert service with the RAF, and began flying with new ground-attack capabilities. In step with its growing operational responsibilities, the UK MoD began moving toward an availability contracting maintenance model. A 5-year contract signed in March 2009 accelerated that shift, and the Typhoon Availability Service has begun operations. Recent reports have raised the question: how successful has it been?
Britain has found that implementing upgrades during planned depth maintenance periods make the most sense, so in practice, the line between long-term maintenance contracts and upgrade contracts is somewhat blurred.
There is an ongoing program to upgrade Typhoons in service, in order to add progressive strike capabilities and keep key systems up to date against modern threats. The various partner countries are undertaking their own efforts, and then each gets offered back to the customer pool as a whole at an appropriate point. Key upgrade stages for the UK include:
Tranche 1 Block 5. Installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs and partial integration of RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod.
That will leave the RAF’s 53 Tranche 1 planes as air superiority fighters with limited precision strike capability.
Tranche 2, Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E). Requires Tranche 2 aircraft; the RAF ordered 67 of those. implements full Air-to-Surface capability, with Helmet Mounted Sight System (HMSS) upgrades for ground attack use, Improved Direct Voice Input for pilots includes prioritization of ground targets, New radar modes, Full integration of the LITENING-III surveillance and targeting pod, Full smart bomb integration (Paveway laser-guided, and dual-mode laser/GPS Paveway IV or EGBU-16 bombs), Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe, Improved MIDS (Link 16) and radios, Digital integration of Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (full IRIS-T integration with HMSS for high off-boresight shots, allows future AIM-9X integration), and Praetorian DASS defensive suite upgrades. All of these enhancements will come factory-installed in Tranche 3 aircraft.
BAE is part-way through P1E upgrades, but they’re considered to be tested and qualified. Eurofighter partner nations will be eligible to begin installing P1E enhancement packages starting in 2015, and all of these improvements come standard in Tranche 3 aircraft.
Phase 2 Enhancements (P2E). Tranche 3 aircraft have begun delivery, and the RAF has ordered 40, but they will need added upgrades alongside the Tranche 2s. At present, the confirmed P2E enhancements are all weapons, because the Captor-E AESA radar contract remains unsigned.
P2Ea expects to add MBDA’s Storm Shadow stealthy medium-range cruise missile by the end of 2015, thanks to Middle Eastern financing. Italian tests have reportedly occurred with MBDA’s Marte Mk.2/S light anti-ship missile, but the timeline for integration has been vague.
For P2Eb, MBDA’s Meteor long range air-to-air missile won’t be integrated until 2017, and that upgrade stage would presumably include the Captor-E AESA radar as well. If Italy pushes ahead with Marte Mk.2/S integration but can’t make P2Ea, it would also happen here. Ongoing Praetorian DASS enhancements must be expected as well, along with incremental electronics improvements.
Phase 3 Enhancements (P3E). P3E is still in the study phase, but the UK is expected to issue a 2015 contract to integrate MBDA’s Brimstone radar/laser light strike missile. It’s being talked about as a P3E effort, for fielding by 2018, but its usefulness against the most frequent targets of British air campaigns could see it added sooner as an Urgent Operational Requirement.
The ability of Tranche 3 Typhoons to accommodate dorsal conformal fuel tanks may be very attractive to partner nations like Britain, who are buying a much more limited set of Tranche 3 fighters than expected.
Beyond that, the big questions for P2E and beyond involve weapons. Storm Shadow’s integration already includes flights and tests with Taurus’ KEPD 350 stealthy medium-range cruise missile, and KEPD 350 customers like Germany and Spain could decide to add it, if they ever find the funds. Since their Tornados and F/A-18 Hornets can’t serve forever, at some point they must add it or lose that aerial capability. Full-range anti-ship missiles and anti-radar missiles are also notable weaknesses in the Eurofighter’s arsenal, especially from Britain’s perspective, and new weapons like MBDA UK’s SPEAR 3 medium-range strike missile will be entering the picture.
Contracts & Key Events
2013 – 2014
Oct 17/14: P1E. BAE Systems announces that deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancement upgrades have created 17 P1Eb standard aircraft in service with the RAF. A further 18 are to be delivered by April 1/15, under a EUR 1.2 billion program that will eventually convert all 67 Tranche 2 Typhoons in RAF service; BAE offers a useful summary of key features.
Now that the UK has completed testing and undertaken initial fielding, the upgrade package will also become a proven installation option for other Eurofighter Tranche 2 customers, beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, future P2E and P3E upgrades are being planned, but the biggest wild card and competitive disadvantage remains:
“Eurofighter is still waiting for the partner nations to sign a production contract for the introduction of the Captor-E [AESA radar]…. A program source confirmed that the signing of the deal had slipped to the end of 2014, and “the staffing process within some partner nations is taking more time than originally planned.” “Germany is still sorting out some details,” a second source said.”
Sources: BAE Systems, “Royal Air force now flying their most advanced fighter jets ever” | Defense News, “British RAF Now Flying Improved Typhoon Aircraft”.
Sept 30/14: Defects. Germany suspends their remaining 32 Eurofighter deliveries, pending resolution of a manufacturing defect and negotiations re: what to do about it. They also sharply cut the estimated number of safe flying hours in each of their 108 delivered Eurofighters to just 1,500, and Austria and Britain are apparently taking similar measures. The timing is terrible, coming on the heels of revelations that budget cuts have forced the German armed forces into deep disrepair, with most of its key equipment unready for war.
BAE Systems and Britain’s RAF reportedly discovered that some of the rivet holes in the rear fuselage of the jet were drilled in ways that could introduce splinters and cracks into the rear fuselage, giving it less ability to resist wear and tear. That section is built by BAE, and tests are underway to get a more precise estimate of the effect on the fighter’s safe lifespan.
Meanwhile, the problem isn’t an immediate safety issue, and the Luftwaffe won’t hit even this low hours limit until 2018, so the planes aren’t grounded. Exports to Oman and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue.
Note that 1,500 flight hours is a ridiculously short life span, even for fighter jets whose forecasts in a capable military amount to just 150-300 hours per plane per year. Base figures of 5,000 – 8,000 are expected, with deep repair and refurbishment extending some airframes to around 10,000. The original official limit of 3,000 hours was itself just half of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 6,000 hour design life, with the expectation that hard flight data would extend the official limit as experience offered greater certainty. It’s a very German approach, but the introduction of a big uncertainty is pushing estimates the other way for now.
Sources: German Bundeswehr, “Eurofighter: Flugbetrieb der Luftwaffe aktuell nicht von industrieller Flugstundenreduzierung betroffen” | Der Spiegel, “Desolate Bundeswehr-Ausrustung: Hersteller warnt vor Mangeln am “Eurofighter” | Defense-Aerospace, “Eurofighter: Air Force Flight Operations Currently Not Affected By Flight Hours Reduction” | Agence France Presse, “Germany ‘erring on side of safety’ regarding Eurofighter defect” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Manufacturing flaw halts some Eurofighter deliveries” | Reuters, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem” | SwissInfo, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem, some deliveries halted” | Russia Today, “Eurofighter hull hitch: Germany halves fighter flying hours” || Der Spiegel, “Marodes Material: Bundeswehr erfullt Nato-Anforderungen derzeit nicht” (re: massive disrepair in armed forces) | Deutsche Welle, “Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment”.
Manufacturing defect could shrink fighter lifespan
Sept 8/14: Sub-contractors. General Dynamics UK receives an order from BAE Systems to upgrade 60 Control and Video Interface (CVI) units in the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fleet. The new units will significantly improve recording times and picture quality, and increase commonality with Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 machines.
The Enhanced CVI development program began in 2012, and achieved a Final Design Declaration of Performance by December 2013. Deliveries are beginning in September 2014, with a production rate of 10 units per month. They should be done shipping by the end of February 2015. Sources: GD UK, “General Dynamics UK to deliver upgrades to Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft”.
July 16/14: HMD. BAE unveils its Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD), which builds on the original Striker system flying with Eurofighter and Gripen fleets.
The new system removes the need for night vision goggles, integrating a center-mounted ISIE-11 sensor based on Intevac Photonics’ patented electron bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS) advanced imaging sensor technology. The result is brighter and lighter than standard HMD/NVG combinations. the system is fully digital, and new hybrid opto-inertial technology is designed to reduce jitter and other syncing issues as the HMD tries to stay aligned with the pilot’s head movement and display its symbology. Sources: BAE Systems, “BAE Systems Unveils Digital Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display System with Superior Tracking, Night Vision Capabilities”.
June 19/14: Brimstone 2. BAE announces an initial GBP 5 million study contract from the British Ministry of Defence, to conduct initial integration studies for the dual-mode radar/laser guided Brimstone 2 short-range light strike missile. Brimstone is already operational on Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike fighters, and this is an expected development that will improve the Typhoon’s capabilities for close air support against land targets and swarming motorboats.
Initial wind tunnel tests are already underway at Warton, Lancashire, and the study also intends to explore a common launcher for future derivatives like the 75+ km SPEAR 3 light strike missile. The target date for Brimstone 2 integration is 2018. Sources: BAE, “UK Study Contract Awarded to integrate Brimstone 2 onto Typhoon”.
Jan 28/14: Red Flag. Eurofighter Typhoons from 6 Squadron in Leuchars join Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham and an E-3 Sentry command and control aircraft from RAF Waddington for the multinational Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB, NV, USA. Deployments like this are important for their maintenance role as well as their pilot training role, because they help the RAF refine expeditionary support needs and determine what must be taken along. The answers to those questions then affect maintenance procedures, schedules, and supplies. Sources: RAF, “Typhoons Hit Nevada”.
Jan 27/14: TAS Extended. BAE and the MoD agree to a 12-month, GBP 100 million (about $165 million) extension of the Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) base contract. Sources: BAE Systems, “12 Month Contract Awarded To Support RAF Typhoons”.
Sept 30/13: Aerial refueling. Looks like the delays have been taken care of. The UK MoD gave Voyager clearance to begin air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations with Typhoon in late May 2013, with a formal Release to Service (RTS) on Aug 15/13. “Voyager and Typhoon have now completed more than 350 contacts, offloading 840 tonnes of fuel to the end of this month [Sept].” Sources: AirTanker, “Voyager and Typhoon complete more than 350 contacts”.
June 26/13: Procedure change. After studying data from the various availability-based Typhoon maintenance contracts, the RAF agrees to change the maintenance program so the jets receive a full servicing after every 500 flying hours, instead of the current 400 hours. The key question was whether this would compromise safety. The analysis came back “no.” The change is estimated to save GBP 100 million over the fleet’s lifetime, while leaving more fighters on the flight line instead of in the shop. BAE Systems.
2010 – 2012
Dec 29/12: Tranche 1, Block 5. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.
Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:
Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. 
Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”
Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $19,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.
Dec 6/11: Aerial refueling issues. The British Forces Broadcasting Service reports that:
“The first A330 Voyager [aerial refueling plane] had been due to be handed over in October, but isn’t now expected at its new home of Brize Norton until the New Year. The private company that will operate the aircraft says it is down to the availability of Typhoon fast jets for air-to-air refuelling tests.”
The RAF Typhoon fleet’s base availability rate been a subject of some controversy lately (q.v. Dec 4-5/11). This problem could also stem from the need to have Typhoons in the air for Libyan operations and home patrol missions, which would leave few planes available for other missions. It’s hard to tell from the information given.
Dec 4-5/11: Availability issues. Availability is reportedly an issue for Britain’s Typhoons. The Sunday Express reports that:
“…the number of Typhoons in Britain’s Forward Fleet, used to protect our skies, varies from month to month between about 40 and 50 aircraft. Yet at times so many are undergoing repairs that fewer than 20 are available. The RAF has had to scrap three… for spare parts… it is the fighters’ computers that are most frequently “liberated” to keep other jets in the air. Tim Ripley, defence analyst for IHS Jane’s, said problems had come to a head because of the Libya campaign… Earlier this year a critical report by MPs on the cross-party Public Accounts Committee revealed only eight pilots had been given sufficient ground attack training because of the lack of aircraft.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence fires back on their blog. They don’t give contrary figures, which would offer a fully credible rebuttal. What they do say, is that:
“[Reports that half the fleet is grounded are] not true. We regularly carry out routine maintenance programmes… but that does not mean they are undergoing ‘repairs’… The RAF has not ‘scrapped’ any Typhoon aircraft for spares and we do not routinely take aircraft off flying duties to remove spare parts… It is standard practice to use parts from across the whole fleet… This only affects a few aircraft in maintenance and ensures we have the operational aircraft we require.”
Jan 14/10: Britain’s Ministry of Defence signs a 10-year, GBP 865 million (about $1.41 billion) contract with Rolls-Royce, to service engines for Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The fleet’s EJ200 engines were excluded from the initial TAS contract that was signed in March 2009, and the MoD says that this agreement will help to sustain up to 3,000 highly skilled direct and indirect jobs.
Under the terms of the contract, which runs until 2019, Rolls-Royce will provide the RAF with a guaranteed level of availability for its EJ200 engines. Rolls-Royce will manage all aspects of EJ200 engine support, including the provision of replacement engines to meet customer demands, technical support on-base, and higher-level support. Rolls-Royce support operations are centerd at the Typhoon Propulsion Support Facility at RAF Coningsby, where the RAF’s Typhoon squadrons are based. From there, a team comprising both Rolls-Royce and RAF personnel manages the engine support for aircraft operations in the field, and also carries out some engine repairs. This will be augmented in 2010 by a 2nd Main Operating Base at RAF Leuchars, where Rolls-Royce will also have a support team. If engine repairs become necessary, most are undertaken at the Rolls-Royce facilities at Ansty, near Coventry, and in the Rolls-Royce Operations Centre in Bristol.
The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK). Rolls Royce | UK Press Association | Reuters.
10-year engine services contract
2006 – 2009
Dec 4/09: QinetiQ. QinetiQ announces a 3-year, GBP 37 million (about $61 million) follow-on contract from the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support Operation (MoD’s DESO) to continue its advisory support for the Typhoon program. The original GBP 52.5 million contract was signed with the Typhoon Project Team in August 2006. QinetiQ employees and resources to involved withe are located at sites across the UK including MoD Boscombe Down, BAE Systems Warton, Farnborough, Malvern, Bristol, and a number of the MoD ranges.
This award is separate from the larger availability-based contract, and does not directly involve maintenance, but its conclusions and recommendations will have a bearing on the execution of the Typhoon Availability Service contract. It covers independent Release to Service (RTS) safety recommendations; airworthiness and safety clearance; the technical review of Verification, Qualification and Certification (VQ&C) evidence; program risk reduction and recovery support activities; future capability/ decision support; crew protection and performance studies; mission system software support; and technical and business support.
In October 2009, QinetiQ came in for very harsh criticism from the Haddon-Cave review for their performance of similar duties related to the UK’s Nimrod aircraft fleet, in the wake of Nimrod #XV230″s mid-air self-destruction over Afghanistan.
Nov 17/09: Italy. The sincerest form of flattery. Italy’s new 5-year, EUR 600+ million Integrated Supply Chain Management Service (ISCMS) contract for its Eurofighter fleet borrows from the British TAS model.
Oct 15/09: DASS. BAE Systems announces a 5.5 year performance-based contract worth more than GBP 400 million (currently about $654 million), to support the radars and defensive aids sub systems (DASS) on the core partner nations’ Eurofighter fleets (Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). The contract contains a number of performance-based incentives, and follows closely on the heels of a full availability-based contract for Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighter fleet.
While these are separate contracts, the Saudi effort borrows from and goes beyond the British approach, and the CAPTOR/DASS support contract will extend BAE Systems’ availability-based responsibilities for RAF Typhoons.
DASS support contract
Sept 30/09: The opening of the Typhoon Support Centre and the Typhoon Maintenance Facility at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, marks the official start of the Typhoon Availability Service (TAS). UK MoD | BAE’s release [dead link] says that:
“Currently over 270 BAE Systems’ employees work on the TAS contract across RAF Coningsby and the BAE Systems’ sites at Samlesbury and Warton in Lancashire. This will grow to 500 over the course of the five year contract.”
March 4/09: The UK MoD and BAE agree to a 5-year, GBP 450 million (currently $633 million) Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract, after 18 months of intense work by a joint BAE Systems/UK MOD team. Engine work is currently excluded from these arrangements.
Overall management of TAS will be conducted jointly at RAF Coningsby by senior representatives of the MOD and BAE Systems. At present, over 200 BAE Systems employees work on Eurofighter support across RAF Coningsby and the BAE Systems sites of Samlesbury and Warton. This will grow to 500 by the end of 2009.
TAS will initially be a 5-year contract, but a longer 10-year contract is expected to follow that will draw on the lessons learned and experience gained in the initial period. UK MoD | RAF | BAE Systems.
Typhoon Availability Service
Nov 26/07: Initial contract. BAE Systems announces a GBP 11.6 million (about $24 million) contract to provide a guaranteed repair service for a few Eurofighter Typhoon components, including the nose radome, windscreen assembly, and canopy assembly. This particular contract, which runs through to the end of 2014, will see a progressive transfer of risk from the customer to BAE Systems with an incentive to reduce through life repair costs. It is just the 1st in a series of 4 partnered support contracts, which are valued at approximately GBP 227 million and will eventually cover over 1,500 items from 26 aircraft systems.
Work will be performed by a joint team of RAF and BAE Systems employees based at RAF Coningsby. BAE Systems will manage the activity, with RAF technicians undertaking the repair actions. Direct first line forward engineering support to the flying squadrons will continue to be provided by RAF personnel. Sources: BAE Systems release [dead link].
Sept 11/07: Initial contract. BAE Systems and Britain’s Defence Equipment and Support (DES) organization took another step, signing a GBP 10.9 million ($22.5 million), 2-year “learning phase” contract that will deliver a 50% increase in on-aircraft maintenance and upgrade capability at RAF base Coningsby, and establish an initial BAE Systems maintenance presence on the RAF site. Under the contract, the Typhoon Maintenance and Upgrade (TMU) facility at RAF Coningsby, will be jointly managed and manned by BAE Systems and the RAF, bringing together the 84 RAF personnel currently employed on Typhoon maintenance with an additional 36 BAE Systems personnel on site, and a further 5 providing support from Warton. This kind of on-site cooperation was cited in DID’s Tornado ATTAC coverage as a crucial step in the process.
The new arrangements aim to minimize aircraft down-time by conducting scheduled maintenance at the same time as ongoing aircraft upgrades. The Typhoon contract builds on the proven principles of the Harrier ‘Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme’ and the Tornado ‘Combined Maintenance Upgrade’ contracts, which have shown that combining maintenance and upgrade functions is an important money-saver that also improves operational availability percentages. The goal in this case is to ensure that the Typhoon front line force is able to continue its build up without any backlog of scheduled maintenance.
BAE Systems’ release [dead link] states that the goal is to replace this learning phase contract with “an availability service from 2009.”
Nov 15/06: Initial contract. BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence signed a GBP 5.4 million (about $7 million then) Typhoon Whole Aircraft Scheduled Maintenance and Upgrade (WAMSU) contract at BAE Systems’ Warton site, which builds the aircraft. It will combine scheduled maintenance of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters with the upgrade program already underway at Warton, leaving 6 more aircraft available for front line duties. The program will eventually bringing 43 ‘Tranche 1’ Eurofighters up to the common standard. Tranche 1 Eurofighters generally have no precision ground attack capability, but the RAF plans to modify its aircraft to accommodate the LITENING targeting pod.
The Whole Aircraft Scheduled Maintenance and Upgrade program, named WASMU for ease, represents the first contractual step of the Typhoon Partnered Support program. Under WASMU, a program of primary maintenance activities at 400 flying hours will be carried out at the same time as the ongoing upgrade tasks. Following completion of definition work on the 800 flying hour maintenance package, a follow-on contract for the extension to WASMU through to 2012 is planned. In BAE’s corporate release, Typhoon weapon system capability director Martin Taylor said that:
“Through this contract, BAE Systems will become an integral part of the RAF support process. Although based at Warton, this activity will operate as an extension to the support operations at RAF Coningsby, the Typhoon main operating base. This contract represents a significant step in our journey towards a comprehensive availability service.”
* DID FOCUS – Britain’s Future Contracting for Availability Approach. Public access. Links to a variety of articles covering platforms being moved under through-life support arrangements.
* DID FOCUS – Eurofighter’s Future: Tranche 3, and Beyond. In-depth coverage of the entire multinational program.
* RAF – Typhoon F2.
* Starstreak – Eurofighter Typhoon. Unofficial site, with excellent information that covers the aircraft and the program.
* Eurojet Turbo GmbH. A consortium of Rolls Royce, Germany’s MTU, Italy’s Avio, and Spain’s ITP.
* Rolls Royce – EJ200.
News and Views
* RUSI (Sept 9/14) – Integrating Typhoon and F-35: The Key to Future British Air Power. Interesting suggestions.
* Australian Aviation (August 2000) – Eurofighter Typhoon – Demon or Lemon? Neither, says the analysis.
* Entrepreneur Magazine (December 1997) – EJ200, an engine with a future.