May 2, 2018 / 4:16 PM / 18 days ago

Germany confident Eurofighter supplier issue can be resolved soon

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said on Wednesday it hoped to resolve the restricted supply of certain components for its fleet of 129 Eurofighter jets in coming weeks, and the issue should not derail its plans to resume air policing in the Baltic region from September.

FILE PHOTO: A German Eurofighter takes off during a joint international aerial training exercise hosted by Israel and dubbed "Blue Flag 2017" at Ovda military air base in southern Israel November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Holger Neumann told reporters the German air force was able to meet its military requirements despite the issue with components needed for the warplane’s self-protection system.

The component issue, first reported by Spiegel Online on Tuesday, centres on a so-called “grease nipple” that is part of the system that cools the wingtip pods that house elements of the self-protection system, which was designed by BAE Systems.

Supplies of the component have been restricted while the primary supplier, a U.S.-based company, is recertified after a change in its ownership, industry sources said.

“We hope to get this problem under control in several weeks or months,” Neumann told a regular German government news conference. He declined to give any details about how many of Germany’s Eurofighters were affected by the spare parts logjam.

The ministry acknowledged that the component supply issue could exacerbate existing problems with the readiness of the Eurofighter warplanes, but declined to give any details.

It was not immediately clear if the issue also affected the five other countries that have received Eurofighter jets under a joint project of Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L), European airplane maker Airbus (AIR.PA) and Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI). More than 500 of the jets have been delivered to Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Austria and Saudi Arabia.

    One industry source said the consortium was not aware of other countries affected by the component issue.

    Sources familiar with the issue denied a report by Spiegel Online that only 10 German Eurofighter jets were ready for use as a result of the issue, noting that at least 14 jets were in use around the world at the moment.

    Airbus said the restricted supply of the components was “being urgently addressed by the Eurofighter industrial community” and it would work closely with the German air force to minimize the impact of the situation.

    It said it had provided the German Air Force with “a package of best practices, training and workarounds to mitigate the shortage of components and has put in place measures to increase the output of repairs to the existing inventory.”

    Sources familiar with the issue said the German government was notified about the issue at the end of March, and faulted BAE for failing to provide further advance notice of the issue, which would have allowed preemptive orders of needed parts.

    A spokeswoman for BAE said the company was supporting the Airbus-led efforts to address the issue as part of the Eurofighter consortium.

    Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Susan Fenton

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