Procurement: January 19, 2003

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For all practical purposes, the F-35 has won the fighter war and the Eurofighter Typhoon has lost. Only the US has aggressively moved to re-equip its own forces, while Europe (aside from Britain) is happy to buy a few new fighters and avoid using them in combat. The Eurofighter has been delayed again and again (closing the window of opportunity in which a truly capable Eurofighter could have grabbed markets while the F-35 was not yet available), while its cost escalates and the Eurofighter capabilities that were to rival the F-35 are still in faraway upgrades that remain on the drawing boards. South Korea bought F-15s, and that was the last competition in which Eurofighter did not face the F-35. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway have all picked the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the more expensive and less capable Eurofighter Typhoon. Economic viability for Typhoon hangs by a thread, and the Germans (who are shrinking their defense budget) will eventually have to cancel one major program, and Typhoon seems the most likely to go. That could leave the other Eurofighter partners without enough internal orders to be worth producing the vaunted Tranche-3 upgrade which would, perhaps, approach the F-35's initial capabilities. As the Typhoon's domestic and export markets continue to shrink, its costs continue to climb. The result of all of this may well be to push Europe out of the fighter business by 2030, leaving only Russia to offer significant competition.--Stephen V Cole

 


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