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Monday, December 22, 1997 Published at 18:10 GMT

Special Report

Dogfight to get Eurofighter into air
image: [ Lift-off for Eurofighter, but controversy has surrounded its development ]
Lift-off for Eurofighter, but controversy has surrounded its development

The £40bn Eurofighter project has been dogged by a number of controversies with critics claiming it was over-budget, under-performing and taking too long to develop.

The development of the new-generation fighter jet, which is led by Britain and Germany with Spain and Italy, is behind its original schedule. British Aerospace, which is building the plane, puts the delay down to the requirements of its customers.

Escalating costs

The cost of the plane has also been a contentious issue. The bill for Britain's order of 232 has risen from £7bn to £15bn.

Criticism has been levelled at the project on a number of fronts.

There are claims that Eurofighter lacks stealth capability and under-performed in its dogfight manoeuvrability - claims that British Aerospace strongly contests.

Out of date?

The Eurofighter was conceived in 1983, before the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe and the demise of the Warsaw Pact. It is thought the first planes will be operational in 2002 or 2003, a delay that has led some aviation analysts to claim the Eurofighter's technology will be out of date.

Funding for the project, which will end up costing around four times more than Europe's largest industrial project, the Channel tunnel, also ran into difficulties.

It had been threatened by a series of German delays in securing money to move to full production, with the country's finance and defence ministries at loggerheads over how to pay for the aircraft.

The breakthrough came in October when the German Cabinet finally approved plans to buy 180 Eurofighters.

The Eurofighter consortium includes Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG DAIG.F, British Aerospace plc BA.L, Alenia Spa ALEI.RO of Italy and state-owned CASA of Spain.


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