Eurofighter is the most successful European defence project with great potential for future development. We speak to Raffael Klaschka, Eurofighter Strategic Marketing and former Typhoon pilot, about the current status of the programme.
Aviation Report: Recent geopolitical changes and new and rapid technological developments require new approaches and solutions to cope with the changing environment. How is the Eurofighter platform evolving to maintain its advantage in the future battlespace?
Raffael Klaschka: We’re living through a time of rapid technological developments that are shaping the thinking about the future of air power. Recent conflicts have seen a shift from symmetric to asymmetric warfare, with fast moving elusive targets.
Emerging threats will demand a high degree of flexibility and precision to avoid or minimise collateral damage. At the same time, from a technology perspective, we are seeing the dawn of new weapons systems, including new drone-based and advanced land-based air defence systems.
We also see an emerging threat from advanced passive radar systems. These will pose an increasing danger for those current platforms with low observable ‘stealth’ characteristics.
Another factor is cyber technology. Around 80 per cent of the capabilities of future aircraft will be software-based and ensuring the whole infrastructure and system is robust and resilient against cyber-attacks will be crucial.
All of these developments are driving Europe’s future air warfare requirements. What’s already clear is that new approaches and solutions will be required. In Europe these requirements are shaping the conversation around the capability need for future combat air systems.
However, the challenges of the future battlespace are already being considered as part of the continuous capability enhancement journey on the Eurofighter platform. That’s why an evolving Eurofighter is set to be the logical bridge to any future combat air system. Clearly an enhanced Eurofighter will be part of the DNA of the future fighter — working hand-in-hand with other systems in a future battlespace, whether those systems are manned or unmanned.
The six key enablers for the future battlespace are:
1 – KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Interoperability and connectivity will be key requirements of the future battlespace. Decision speed depends on it. Coalition forces will have to be able to talk the same digital language, to exchange information, data and targeting solutions to a far higher degree – and speed – than they do today. We currently have common NATO standards but the demand for data will intensify in the future. The Eurofighter of the future will see new data links introduced and existing ones enhanced. Our view is that in the near future, the player who doesn’t have the required degree of connectivity will not be able to take part in coalition operations because it would have a negative effect on efficiency and safety of your own troops and forces.
Everybody on the network — the soldier on the ground, the seaman on the ship, the pilot, the weapons system operator, even the weapon itself — will be connected. This will contribute to the situational awareness of the decision maker. The dynamics around the exchange of information and intelligence will drastically increase.
2 – DIFFERENT MISSIONS, DIFFERENT CAPABILITIES
A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. If you want stealth, you can’t have optimum payload. If you want optimum payload, you can’t have stealth. If you want survivability, you need two engines. If you want vertical take-off capability you can only have one engine, which can have an impact on the survivability of your jet. Eurofighter is built on a philosophy that a broad set of equalised capabilities is future-proof in a future battlespace because there are a whole set of capabilities needed and not just a single one.
3 – SENSOR SHOOTER OPS VS KILL WEB
Current combat scenarios are ‘Sensor Shooter’ led, which means the platform carrying the weapon uses its own sensors to create a targeting solution, then employs its weapon against it.
However, the new technological developments that are coming on stream will make it viable for the platform to rely on a targeting solution from another sensor. It’s a concept known variously as ‘Kill Web’ or ‘Combat Cloud’. Essentially, it means you can use target data from another asset in the network, for example, a ship, and then employ your weapon on it.
This shift, from the traditional Sensor Shooter scenario, to a future battlespace is an evolutionary change — it’s a continuous transition and we’re living through it. A platform like Eurofighter will evolve with it and through it and will therefore play a crucial role in future. So we need to get used to the concept of having a ship as your wing man. The future battlespace will inevitably be a highly networked environment and network enabled weapons will be a key requirement. We are already seeing the introduction of these — like SPEAR3 — onto Eurofighter. You can employ them from the most suitable location or you can get the best data available to your weapon, without necessarily using your own sensors.
4 – SURVIVABILITY
When you talk about survivability people often jump to considering the quality of the hardware on the jet and the fidelity of the sensors, the way it displays information and so on. But that’s just one part of the equation. Just as important is the mission data — the data that you insert into the jet so that it’s able to ‘know’ what’s going on in the future battlespace.
It has to be able to gather data, save it and make it downloadable in the fastest possible time. Then it has to be analysed by specialists who can share it with your forces. With mission data we’re talking about several factors: the software, the people who are trained to analyse it, and your experience as a force.
With Eurofighter, forces in operations have the ability to re-programme the software in the jet as quickly as possible. That’s because Typhoon has no black boxes.
And this is really important. If you don’t have good mission data, your survivability decreases and therefore your efficiency and survivability is at risk.
5 – SENSOR FUSION
Eurofighter Typhoon already has a very high level of sensor fusion capabilities but, as sensors improve, the amount of data will increase. In order to remain future-proofed, the capacity and the processing speed of our equipment will increase as part of our future evolution. The bottom line is sensor fusion has to serve the pilot so he can take the right decision and can focus on his mission, and other tasks are taken from him and carried out by smart systems, for example, a sensor manager.
6 – PAYLOAD CHOICE
Flexibility — in terms of the weapons you have at your disposal —will be crucial in terms of effectiveness and survivability. The more weapons you can choose from, the more flexible you are in using your weapon platform. Eurofighter already has a broad weapons suite to call on but that’s expanding with the arrival of Brimstone, Marte ER and Spear3, to name just a few. On top of this Eurofighter has the ability to carry both American weapons and European weapons, which all adds to its flexibility.
Aviation Report: We are following the German issue about the replacing of the Tornado fleet. What are the chances of being able to supply a large number of new Eurofighters to Germany? In this specific area, what are the peculiarities of the Quadriga project? We can call it Tranche 4?
Raffael Klaschka: Eurofighter is already the most successful European defence project ever. But anyone who believes that Eurofighter has reached its peak could not be more mistaken — the truth is the best years are yet to come. Right now, we have a number of exciting opportunities. There are serious prospects, both in terms of more sales and future capability developments.
You only have to look to our core nations to understand that sales landscape. Germany is ready to replace its entire fleet of Tranche 1 Eurofighters, in excess of 30 aircraft under its Project Quadriga programme. These will be replaced by new-build latest standard Tranche 4 aircraft that will include the E-Scan radar and updated software.
These plans clearly demonstrate Germany’s ambitions to significantly advance the Luftwaffe capability and their trust and commitment to not only the Eurofighter programme, the aircraft and its capability, but also clearly supporting the European Defence industry. Germany is also looking to replace its ageing Tornado fleet. I firmly believe that Eurofighter is the country’s best choice. We will be continuing to support the German nation with information to support their assessments and we look forward to entering detailed talks in due course on how this requirement can be satisfied.
Aviation Report: An important technological development is the new AESA Captor-E radar. What can you tell us about this radar and its capabilities?
Raffael Klaschka: The E-Scan Radar opens the door for Eurofighter Typhoon into the Future Operating Environment. That’s because the radar is the main sensor of the aircraft, and improvements and insertions of new capabilities act as multiplier for the whole Mission Effectiveness of the weapon system. A greater field of regard, more radar power and automated multi-mode operation are only some of the features. More detection range and smart incorporation with all sensors will help to reduce the pilot workload whilst enhancing Situational Awareness.
Multiple beams allow for extremely precise target tracking, giving the pilot maximum authority over engagement ranges and tactical decisions. Thanks to the Wide Field of Regard, there’s greater potential to reduce geometrical closure to an enemy while maintaining the full picture. In short, while there is much more potential to explore with the Captor-E E-Scan, it is clearly a game changer. It offers the Eurofighter pilot a significant tactical advantage and, when allied with the platform’s inherent power and agility, means Typhoon will be a potent performer in any future battlespace challenge it might face.
Aviation Report: Spain should also implement the new E-Scan radar in its current fleet, but are there also plans for this country to purchase new Eurofighter aircraft to replace the F-18s? Could Spain align itself with the German Quadriga project?
Raffael Klaschka: Eurofighter has submitted proposals for the replacement of the Spanish Air Force’s F-18s which are based on the Canary Islands. Spain is looking to secure 20 new Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to boost its existing fleet under what is called Project Halcon.
Project Halcon is Spain’s wider plan to retire its F-18 Hornets and replace them with the latest-standard Eurofighters between 2025 and 2030. The final Spanish Air Force Eurofighter from original orders was delivered earlier this year. Once Project Halcon is agreed it will secure Eurofighter manufacturing and final assembly work at the Airbus facility at Getafe until at least 2030.
Spain has been a supporter of the Eurofighter programme from its inception. In return it has used the programme to develop a robust aeronautical industry, and that in turn has provided Spain with technological independence.
Aviation Report: The Project Centurion developed by the Royal Air Force added a series of armaments to the aircraft. What are these new armaments?
Raffael Klaschka: Centurion was broken down into two main elements: Phase 2 Enhancement (known as P2E), which added the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and the Storm Shadow standoff cruise missile. It was then followed by P3E, which added the Brimstone ground-attack missile.
From the standard that was delivered in January 2019, there are already a significant number of refinements on top of what the squadrons are currently operating in theatre. These incremental updates affect Paveway IV, Meteor, AMRAAM and Brimstone. Several weapons that have been on the aircraft for some time, like ASRAAM, are being updated to counter the proliferation of threats and the advancement of countermeasures available. This will make a real difference to the air forces. It’s a rapid change programme that’s being delivered at an unprecedented rate. Other updates are continually being made to the Human Machine Interface (HMI). For pilots the really big step change was when they moved from the P1E standard to the P2E standard; but the change from P2E to the P3E feels smaller because we have already implemented significant changes to the HMI. These changes are being further developed and refined, in order to allow us to springboard Eurofighter Typhoon into the next stage of development.
Aviation Report: We read about the aircraft in ISPA 6 (Instrumented Series Production Aircraft) configuration and about the P3Eb development program. What do they represent in terms of technological development?
Raffael Klaschka: On the 23rd December 2019 at the Flight Test Centre of Leonardo Aircraft Division in Turin-Caselle, the first Instrumented Series Production Aircraft (ISPA 6) equipped with the Kuwait Air Force configuration has successfully completed its first flight. The aircraft is the first to fly the innovative Captor E-Scan Radar with Phase Enhancement P3Eb, and is a key milestone for the entry into service of Eurofighter with the State of Kuwait. With Captor E-Scan radar and several new additions to the weapon system, this variant will put the Kuwait Air Force at the vanguard of fighter technology.
While other aircraft in different Eurofighter Partner Companies are testing specific parts of this configuration, including the development of the E-Scan radar in UK and Germany, this is the first flight of the entire package that will be delivered to Kuwait. The capability package for Kuwait includes the integration of Storm Shadow and Brimstone and other air-to-surface weapons. Moreover it foresees the integration of a new advanced laser designator pod (the Lockheed Martin Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod) that will expand Eurofighter’s portfolio of cleared laser designator pods; the introduction of the DRS-Cubic ACMI P5 combat training pod and an enhanced navigation aid (VOR). This standard is the most advanced variant of the fighter jet ever made, with a package of capabilities that builds effectively on existing enhancement programmes.
Aviation Report: The Eurofighter has one of the world’s most advanced Electronic Warfare systems. This allows the Typhoon to operate stealthily, can you explain us this type of capacity and the difference with an aircraft physical stealth?
Raffael Klaschka: There are two main elements to being able to act stealthily: being aware of your environment and being hard to observe. The Typhoon’s EW suite covers both. Firstly, the system provides full awareness of surrounding threats so the pilot knows where they are and what modes they’re using. This picture is enhanced further by pulling in data from other operators in the theatre, networking via the Typhoon’s EW system.
With an up-to-the-moment, accurate and comprehensive picture of the environment, a Typhoon pilot can make sure they don’t even come within range of potentially-dangerous radar.
However, staying away from threats isn’t always possible, so the second core element of stealth is to make yourself hard to see. Here, the Typhoon EW suite employs a range of electronic countermeasures that allows the aircraft to digitally hide its signature, becoming invisible to radar, or to digitally create a complex and confusing picture (noise) for a threat operator, denying them a clean targeting opportunity and preventing them from launching a missile in the first place.
Importantly, the Typhoon’s advanced, reprogrammable EW suite allows the aircraft to react to a constantly-changing threat environment in ways that physical stealth cannot.
It is worth to mention though that both technologies have their own place in current and future scenarios and can work perfect complementary, as proven by UK or Italy.
Consider today’s threats. The latest surface-to-air missile systems are having their hardware regularly upgraded, are being networked and can change their behaviour almost instantaneously via software-reprogramming. In short, they are constantly evolving, creating a dynamic and challenging threat environment. To counter this, the Typhoon’s EW systems, which are readily re-programmable, can evolve digitally to maintain the aircraft’s combat advantage even as threats change around it.
The secret to this advantage is ‘mission data’, a term which sounds relatively benign but is critical to an aircraft’s EW performance and often life-saving. Mission data is the threat intelligence that allows the Typhoon’s sensors to recognise a threat and use the appropriate electronic countermeasure or evasion technique to keep the Typhoon safely out of harm’s way. For some aircraft, mission data is controlled by foreign nations or platform manufacturers, meaning that updates can be months, even years apart.
With Typhoon, which has an open, reprogrammable system which can be updated by the operator, a new threat which is reported as ‘unknown’ during today’s mission can be programmed into the system in hours, meaning that the threat will be identified and dealt with during the very next mission.
Leonardo provides full training to sovereign nations in the programming of Typhoon and development of tactics and countermeasures (optional) so they are able to capitalise on the equipment’s capability rapidly and effectively.
Aviation Report: What does the Typhoon long-term evolution (LTE) study consist of?
Raffael Klaschka: The LTE study will underpin the future of Eurofighter by identifying a suite of technology enhancements for the Weapons System infrastructure and the engine that will ensure the aircraft remains operationally effective and can continue to spearhead the Partner Nations’ air forces for the decades to come.
Aviation Report: At the 2019 International Fighter Conference in Berlin, Airbus and its partners presented the Eurofighter ECR (Electronic Combat Role) concept. Can you give us some more details about the technology and capabilities of this version of the Eurofighter and if any countries already shown interest in this ECR version?
Raffael Klaschka: The concept proved the potential of flexibility in this weapon system and was a proposal to fit specific German requirements. However these technologies would also be available to Future Export customers. There are different ways to fly this specific role, we presented one.
Aviation Report: Quadriga, Centurion, ECR, LTE. How all these upgrades deployed for the Eurofighter will be used for the next New Generation Fighter integral part of the Future Combat Air System? Eurofighter will be a good bridge for technology transfer?
Raffael Klaschka: Typhoon will be one of the main platforms where new technologies will be integrated first and matured. The Typhoon will play an elementary key role in any Future Combat Air System. The key is the growth potential and the ability to connect into Future Combat Air Systems. We will hear more down the road. E-Scan is the first step.
Aviation Report: For you what will be the keys and the mandatory capabilities for manage and win in the future battle space in the years ahead?
Raffael Klaschka: Even though, from a logical standpoint, we need to continue the Eurofighter evolution journey, no-one can anticipate exactly what might be needed for the 2060s and beyond. This is due to the fact that nobody knows what the threat environment will look like then.
What we do know for certain today is that Eurofighter offers huge growth potential, in terms of connectivity and the ability to fully exploit current and future sensors. Unlocking that potential is key to ensuring that the aircraft stays as relevant in the decades ahead as it is today.
While the detail grows increasingly hazy the further out you project, some of the core characteristics required to retain relevance as threats evolve are already coming clearly into view. These include battlefield awareness, interoperability, connectivity, flexible firepower and cyber-resilience. If that shopping list represents a future commander’s base requirements, the next question is: what are the fundamental enablers that will help transform it from a wish list to a done deal?
From a pilot’s perspective, you’d say that in complex air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, you will need 360-degree, time-sensitive battlefield awareness. You’ll need connectivity for tactical operations, decision-making and data/imagery sharing. In addition, with so much reliance on data, you will need incredibly secure cyber-resilience. And, at the end of the day, you will still need to be able to call on flexible and scalable firepower.
Hence, in order to make Eurofighter fit for the future, you have to look at certain enablers — many of these are going to be required in the future on all kinds of assets, not just Eurofighter.
It means boosting the on-board processing capacity to a high level to be able to cope with all the new technology and information that will be gathered by a range of more sophisticated sensors, both on board and elsewhere, like for example, from a forward air controller. It also means having the capability to elaborate on, present and share data. It means having an ability to carry a wide variety of weapons and, often, using them in the same mission.
The way we use those kinetic effects should be scalable. The pilot should be able to choose from the aircraft gun, up to a 2000lb bomb, and be able to release these different weapons in any way he needs.
Aviation Report: Are there any news about the evaluations of Switzerland and Finland on their F-18 fleet replacement programs or is it still early for any evaluations and decisions?
Switzerland (Franz Posch, CEO Airbus DS Schweiz)
Switzerland needs to replace its ageing fleet of F-5s and F-18s, which are planned to be phased out between 2025 and 2030. The contest started with a Request for Proposal in 2018, which was focused on the capabilities they were looking for from a replacement.
Switzerland is a neutral state, not a member of NATO, and its major task is air policing, but in ‘intense situations’ they want to be able to defend their airspace.
Switzerland is asking for 36 aircraft in full condition, with everything included in their package. They also want to have a single price for four additional aircrafts, with a budget of 6 billion Swiss francs. Switzerland is asking for an offset commitment of 60% of the purchase price.
“We flew all the missions and performed all the tasks they gave us. We had a two-seater aircraft and they sat in the back in order to get a direct view. They were also flying alongside us using their own F-18s to see close up what we are doing. After the flights, the pilots took part in extensive debriefings. The whole effort was carried out in a hugely professional way from both sides. There are very strict rules governing the process but the result was that the customer was really satisfied.”
The Swiss evaluations highlighted another Eurofighter strength: reliability. “We took an Airbus A400M loaded with spare parts to Switzerland for the trial, but we didn’t need a single screw, which showed them Eurofighter’s high reliability.”
In addition to the live flying, the Swiss team also carried out simulator trials in Germany and the UK, looking at a number of different weapon configurations, so they could get a feel of what’s possible in different scenarios.
In January this year, the Swiss team received the RFP Part 2 which puts the focus on what it will actually deliver. Airbus and the Federal Republic of Germany submitted their official offer to the Swiss Federal Office of Armaments armasuisse for the sale of Eurofighter aircraft to Switzerland on the 18th of November. Franz Posch says: “That’s it until Type Selection and this will be made in Quarter 1, 2021. However, the final details on fleet sizing, weapons and mission equipment will be taken after the Type Selection.”
The final decision will be made on the minister’s level of all seven ministers because it’s a strategic decision. It’s not only about the product. It’s about a partnership, their security relationships, and this is a very important factor in the process.
Our strong belief is that we have a very stable solution.
Finland (John Rossall, HX Campaign Director, BAE Systems)
Finland too is looking for replacements for its F-18 fleet and delivery timescales are similar, being required between 2025 and 2030. Finland’s primary requirement is to defend its territory. Eurofighter is fast, it can fly high and carry an array of advanced weaponry, and that’s exactly what you need when you have a threat in your airspace.
John says: “Finland has identified a number of scenarios which they need to defeat. The configuration of Eurofighter we will propose, will include capabilities that are not currently on the aircraft today, but they are part of the UK RAF’s requirements and will be embodied prior to when deliveries are due to commence.”
Eurofighter was designed to be a phenomenal air superiority fighter. The Centurion Programme transferred air-to-surface capabilities to Eurofighter that made it a world beating multi/swing-role fighter. Investment in Eurofighter, that will introduce new complex weapons, expand the flying envelope, enhance its sensors and person-machine interfaces make Eurofighter a very strong capability for Finland. Add the military capability to the political and industrial partnership in Europe and Eurofighter wins.
A decision is due around April 2021.
Aviation Report: What are the current customers, the current aircraft delivered and the current orders in place and on which customers?
Raffael Klaschka: Currently Eurofighter Typhoon is the aircraft of choice for nine customer nations: Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, Austria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. More than 660 aircraft have been ordered and around 570 are currently operational.
Aviation Report: And to conclude in the next years how important is the development of Eurofighter and of FCAS project for Europe and for its aviation industry?
Raffael Klaschka: Europe’s continued investment in Eurofighter’s capability development will be central to the successful implementation of future capability, whatever European FCAS solutions are being pursued. Eurofighter is the most successful European defence collaboration ever. We have 660 aircraft on order, more than 570 aircraft delivered. And we get fantastic feedback from our customers. We are not only ‘relevant’ but critical to Europe’s future defence-industry base.
Mr. Klaschka thank you very much for your time and these important updates.
Interview by: Stefano Monteleone
Images: Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, Aviation Report Archive