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Monday, December 22, 1997 Published at 18:29 GMT

Special Report

Eurofighter bids to be world's best
image: [ The Eurofighter will be the world's most advanced fighter, at least until the US-built F-22 gets airborne ]
The Eurofighter will be the world's most advanced fighter, at least until the US-built F-22 gets airborne

The Eurofighter project finally takes off after 14 years of development at a cost of £40 billion.

When deliveries start in 2002, it will be the world's most advanced fighter aircraft.

[ image: Eurofighter airborne in just 7 seconds]
Eurofighter airborne in just 7 seconds
Only the American F-22, which enters service several years later at more than twice the price, will be superior.

The plane was originally conceived at the height of the Cold War. It reached the drawing-board in 1983 with development getting under way in 1988.

It has been developed by a consortium of European countries with Britain and Germany leading the way. Italy and Spain have played smaller roles. it will replace the RAF's Jaguars and Tornado F3 fighters.

It is designed as a highly agile multi-role aircraft, capable of ground-attack as well as its primary air defence role.


[ image: Loaded with air-to-surface bombs and missiles]
Loaded with air-to-surface bombs and missiles
It is built with 13 storage points, three of which can take external fuel tanks. For air defence it is likely to fly with up to six medium-range and two short-range air-to-air missiles.

For ground attack missions, it will usually carry six air-to-surface bombs and missiles together with six air-to-air missiles for self-defence, while a 27mm cannon is carried internally.

Hi-tech materials

Only 15% of the aircraft is made of metal. Some 70% is made of carbon fibre composites and 12% glass reinforced plastic thus ensuring it has structural strength and durability but with a low weight penalty.

[ image: Highly automatised single-seat cockpit]
Highly automatised single-seat cockpit
Eurofighter is aerodynamically unstable, requiring on-board computers to make thousands of calculations every second to keep it in the air by controlling the flaps, rudder and front "canard" wings.

By using the full natural forces of gravity and energy, it is a much more manoeuvrable aircraft.

The highly automatised single-seat cockpit includes a direct voice input system and a control stick known as "Hands-on-Throttle-and-Stick" that allows the pilot to undertake about two dozen fingertip operations.

[ image: Top speed of twice the speed of sound]
Top speed of twice the speed of sound
Powered by two new EJ200 engines, it has a top speed of twice the speed of sound and can operate between the limits of nine times the force of gravity and minus three times gravity in tight turns and other manoeuvres.

Top of the range radar

Eurofighter has the world's most advanced radar for long-range detection and acquisition of targets both in the air and on the ground.

Known as the ECR90, it is developed by GEC-Ferranti and will allow pilots to detect and track numerous targets simultaneously and then to fire at enemy aircraft well beyond visual range.

The aircraft is also equipped with an infra-red search and track system which will enable pilots to spot the enemy by detecting minute differences in temperature between the target and its background, making "stealth" aircraft visible.

As it is a passive system, it can operate without giving the aircraft's position away to the enemy.


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