Eurofighter future exports hinge on advanced radar deal
LONDON (Reuters) - The four nation-backed Eurofighter Typhoon jet will not receive any more export orders unless Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain formally agree to fund the development of an advanced radar, an executive at one of the jet's manufacturers said.
Potential customers for the multi-role Eurofighter, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have demanded that the jets be equipped with so-called E-scan radars instead of the M-scan system the jet is fitted with, said Chris Bushell, the senior vice president of electronic warfare at Selex, the defence electronics unit of Italy's Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI).
The four nations agreed in principle to support the development of the new technology in 2011 but signing a formal contract has been delayed by upcoming German elections and the Eurofighter consortium is pressing for a deal to be signed in the first half of next year.
"To export Typhoon in the future around the world, if it's not equipped with an E-scan radar, I do not believe that there would be another sale made," said Bushell, whose company produces the jet alongside Britain's BAE Systems (BAES.L) and EADS (EAD.PA), which represents Germany and Spain.
"It is very well recognised by the partner nations, it is very well recognised by the four industries, and clearly particularly for the UAE, who are an exceptionally demanding customer."
Bushell added that the partners in the Eurofighter consortium needed to "convince" the UAE that the technology could be delivered "in the time scales they require".
The radar problem contributed to the Eurofighter consortium last year losing out on a $20 billion deal to sell 126 fighters to India, which instead chose France's Dassault (AVMD.PA) Rafale jet as preferred bidder.
The UAE was expected to finalise a $10 billion agreement for the Rafale last year but the talks faltered after the UAE said the terms were uncompetitive and unworkable, giving the Eurofighter consortium hope of stealing the deal.
Compared to M-scan, or mechanically scanning, radars that have to physically move to detect objects, E-scan or electronically scanning radars are fixed and tend to operate much faster as they can move their beams electronically.
The consortium has funded the initial development of E-scan radars, which it will test in flight during the first quarter of 2014, Selex Executive Director of Strategy Andrew Cowdery said. The earliest the consortium could likely deliver the radar is in 2017, he said.
Eurofighter has to date received orders from Saudi Arabia and Oman.
($1 = 0.6539 British pounds)
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; editing by Rhys Jones)
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