|Well... Why not?|
Let's get this out of the way: I am a huge fan of the Eurofighter Typhoon. I you were to ask the 12-year-old me to draw a picture of a jet fighter, it would look almost exactly like a Typhoon (it would probably have the F-18's twin tails though). Researching this blog has deepened my respect for it even further. Tales of the Typhoon having "Raptor Salad" for lunch, the long list of planned improvements, and even the thought of the RCAF flying the same aircraft as the RAF conjures up images of Canadian aces flying Sopwith Camels and Spitfires in the two World Wars.
So why isn't this blog called Typhoon4Canada?
|The BAe EAP (Experimental Aircraft Program)|
Europe was already seeing the benefits of joint ventures between countries. The SEPECAT Jaguar was the result of British and French cooperation, and the Panavia Tornado was built as a joint venture between the U.K, West Germany, and Spain. With the relative success of these projects, it was only natural for an even more ambitious project to design and build a world class fighter. Britain, West Germany, France, Spain, and Italy would all pool their resources together to create the "Eurofighter".
The program had more than its fair share of "hiccups". France, unable to convince the other nations to allow Dassault to take a leading role, left the project early on to develop its own fighter, the Rafale. Later in development. Germany, now reunified after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was facing financial hardships and would have pulled out as well if there wasn't such a penalty (which, oddly enough, was placed in the contract at West Germany's insistence). Military budget cuts as the Cold War came to an end, as well as the usual challenges of bringing four different nations together in one project.
More about the troubled development of the Eurofighter Typhoon can be found in the documentary: "Weapon of Mass Construction". It can be found on YouTube: Part One and Part Two
|The pride of Western Europe's skies.|
|A Typhoon show of its PIRATE infra-red sensor.|
On the offensive side, the aircraft is more than capable of holding its own. Currently equipped with one of the best non-AESA radars, the CAPTOR-M, the Typhoon has a great detection range. For close up fights, it carries the Passive Infra-Red Airborne Track Equipmen (PIRATE) that enables it to lock on to its enemy's heat signature. It also utilizes a helmet mounted display and voice controls to help keep the pilot's eyes on his opponent.
|The Typhoon's weapon selection.|
With 13 hardpoints capable of holding 16,500lbs worth of missiles and bombs, the Typhoon certainly has bite. It is capable of carrying just about anything in the NATO arsenal, including the new MBDA Meteor. It is also armed with a 27mm "Mauser" cannon (the same fitted to the Gripen) for when the missiles run out.
Despite its trouble beginning, the Eurofighter Typhoon has made quite a name for itself. Deployed over the skies of Libya, it provided air-superiority duties while other fighters performed ground attack roles.
More impressively, the Typhoon has made a name for itself with its performance in mock combat exercises with dissimilar jet fighters. Not only has it proven victorious over the 4th generation (and much celebrated) F-15 Eagle, but it has also scored simulated kills on the 5th generation (and supposedly king of the skies) F-22 Raptor.
|The "Typhoon 2020".|
What about the future? Well, the Typhoon has enjoyed some recent sales to Saudi Arabia and Oman. This has encouraged further development for more advanced features for future versions, such as an AESA version of its CAPTOR radar and conformal fuel tanks for extended range. The Typhoon's EJ-200 engines may be upgraded to produce 30% more power with the possibility of thrust-vectoring engines for even greater maneuverability.
So with a resume like that, why isn't this blog called "Typhoon4Canada"?
For one, even though the Typhoon is billed as a "multi-role" fighter, it is first and foremost an air superiority machine. Part of the reason France left the project is that it required a more "well rounded" aircraft capable of ground attack and operating off of a carrier. Although the Typhoon is capable of ground attack, its current radar and other systems are simply not optimized for it. This is likely to improve in the future, but the fact remains that the Typhoon is a dogfighter first, "bomb truck" second.
More seriously, the Eurofighter Typhoon is expensive. Not only is its expensive to procure (some sources claim about $143 million a piece), but it is estimated to have a rather high operating cost of about $18,000 per hour. Of course, this is still cheaper than the F-35's estimated $21,000 per hour, but far higher than the Saab Gripen's $4700 per hour. The Typhoon also has a history of parts shortages keeping planes from being ready.
|Typhoon demonstrator showing off Spanish, Italian, British, and German markings.|
Of course, there is always the chance of manufacturing offsets. The Eurofighter Consortium consists of a lot of companies that could probably be coaxed into doing business in Canada and help bring high paying jobs into the Canadian economy. Of course, we must remember that Eurofighter's original purpose was to benefit Europe's aerospace industry over others. Control over the Typhoon's development and jobs created were directly linked to how many fighters each member country bought. With a relatively small number of jets being purchased, Canada would likely be delegated as a "junior partner" with little say in future development.
Would the Typhoon be a good fighter for Canada? Absolutely. It has a proven track record and should be considered one of the top jet fighters of this day and age. It's planned improvements should keep it in top form for the foreseeable future. Many would say it is a better fit for Canada than the Gripen or the F-35 thanks to its twin engines and superior air-to-air capabilities. It would be hard to for me to argue these points.
Perhaps the Eurofighter Typhoon would be the right jet fighter for Canada under the right conditions. "If" Canada was able to procure the Typhoon for a reasonable cost... "If" flying costs could be brought down to more manageable levels... "If" Canada could barter a deal guaranteeing plenty of industrial offsets or even manufacturing the fighter here... "If" the Typhoon's systems could be modified to improve its ground attack capability...
That's a lot of "If"s. Maybe, like the EF-18G Growler, the Typhoon might be a better choice if it was flown as part of a mixed force, rather than Canada's sole jet fighter. Indeed, with a mixed force of EF-18Gs and Typhoons, the RCAF could boast a fleet of "Raptor Killers".
But then again, the Gripen E/F offers a lot of what the Typhoon has to offer, only in a more affordable and more versatile package.