Page 3: Collaborative production
The production of something as technically complex as a fighter aircraft across four countries creates difficulties, but also offers tremendous benefits. The primary major advantage is that of cost because the substantial costs of development, which would in other circumstances be prohibitive to an individual country, are spread. This effectively reduces the risk involved to each partner. Without this collaboration, it is unlikely that any European country would unilaterally undertake such a project. The costs and risks would simply be too high and European air forces would be reliant on other countries for their aircraft. However, the collaboration of the requirements of four European NATO nations has resulted in an order for 620 aircraft - the largest production order for a military aircraft anywhere in the world.
Secondly, the four industrial partners can share their expertise in the aerospace industry. For instance, by sharing the technology used in work on commercial aircraft both products benefit from continual improvement in technology and materials. For example, CASA, the Spanish aerospace manufacturer has developed a high degree of specialisation in composite materials and is a world leader in the manufacturing of carbon fibre, an essential material in the Eurofighter’s construction.
The four partners have been involved in previous development projects and have built up their own areas of technological expertise. This wealth of technological knowledge is subsequently shared with the other partners to ensure cost-effective manufacturing. As this expertise is shared, it ensures that the aerospace industries of the partners will be world leaders with true global competitiveness.
The four partner companies will not only benefit from the technological challenges in the Eurofighter programme. There are around 400 first and second line suppliers - and thousands more suppliers beyond that - and 150,000 people who will be involved over the next 20 years at least, in the development and production of the Eurofighter Typhoon. It is believed this will create many positive benefits for the economy and, in particular, the industrial base of each of the member countries. However, the significance of the Eurofighter project is likely to have other important social and political implications - helping to cement international relations, strengthening the European defence pillar and its place in NATO.
The production contract established a maximum price for 620 aircraft worth $45 billion. These will be produced in three batches and Eurofighter is under obligation to reduce the unit cost of the aircraft with each batch, the ultimate and ambitious objective - to deliver the Typhoon at a lower average cost than the previous generation of fighters, the Tornado. If successful, this would be an unprecedented achievement as successive combat aircraft have always proved more expensive than their predecessors.