Monday, June 27, 2011

Eurofighter very touchy after Rafale team claims superiority

It seems that the trench war has begun between the Eurofigter and Rafale teams. The Eurofighter web site is trying to discard the Dassault and Thales claims stating that the European consortium was a "cooperation of incompetencies" and that the Selex AESA radar was 5 years behind the RBE-2 AESA :

"With Thales claiming to be five years more advanced in AESA radar technology than its competitors with its future Rafale radar and with Dassault claiming that the Eurofighter programme is an example of incompetencies, the French look to be on the defensive."

Well, reading this I would rather say that the Rafale team is on the offensive. Anyway, if it is true that Dassault's claim is rather crual, there is nevertheless some truth in it. Indeed, it is a known fact that the Eurofighter project has been delayed by serious technical issues due to the fact that each company involved wanted workshare on technologies they did not master. As a result, the program is very late and more expensive than the Rafale despite a much larger development team and a higher production rate.

As for the Thales statement, The first RBE-2 production radar has been delivered in 2010 and the first production Captor-E is now expected in 2014 if there is no delay. So that's, at minimum, a 4 years gap (may be not technology wise but at least in term of availability for the export market). Ok, that's not 5 years, but not far from it nevertheless. In fact the Eurofighter team is now in a hurry to field this new radar in order to keep the gap with the RBE-2 as small as possible because any delay will be seen a major setback by export customers. 

The next paragraph is an attempt to boast about the Eurofighter ecomical achievement while in fact the figures tell  more about how slow and inefficient the program has been compared to the Rafale :

"For a programme like Eurofighter which has a huge economic impact in the four partner nations with 100,000 long-term jobs secured, 400 large, medium and small companies participating in the programme, 280 aircraft delivered (just six less than the total number of Rafale planned - but not ordered yet – and to be produced in total!) from a planned 707, six air force customers included two export nations, in-service in 16 units across Europe, Asia and South America, 120,000 flying hours flown, and total operational and combat proven as multi-role platform, these claims by the French look to be more a sign of weakness than of strength"
The "280 aircrafts delivered" statement is interesting because that's in fact a weakness when you consider that there are 4 assembly lines. So, that's an average of 70 planes per assembly line which is 30% less than the Rafale assembly line that has produced more than 100 aircrafts.
Then there is the wild assumption that 707 eurofighters will be ordered and produced. The reality is less shinny when all the partners nations are reducing their orders or using some of their batch as a reserve for export customers.
I will not come back on the boasting about the Eurofighter chassing sea gulls in the Falklands (South america units), nor will I smile to the "combat proven and total operational multirole platform" claim which seems a bit exaggerated for a plane that has merely demonstrated timid LGB strike capabilities. So much Eurofigters (remember, 280) in service but so few actual operational usefulness (what about stand off strike, Sead and recce capabilities ?) ... 
Eventually, such a limited achievement can only be considered as a disappointment for a workforce that large (remember, 100,000 jobs, 400 companies).

The last sentence is precious :
"So, no JSF for India, no marketing leading radar for Thales and no satisfaction for a programme like the Rafale that should concentrate on delivering a better return to the French taxpayer than on attacking its competitors."

Right, no JSF for India, but JSF for UK and Italy to fill the eurofighter capability gaps.
The French taxpayer is most probably very pleased with an aircraft that can conduct all missions, today, even from an aircraft carrier and during the first day of a conflict.

1 comment:

  1. The same lack of a consensus for a well-defined growth map among partner nations plagued the Panavia Tornado program too.

    Back then, however, the Cold War more or less served as the driving force behind various IDS/ADV upgrades; nowadays there's no such a tactical, political or industrial urgency behind Typhoon.