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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Factfile: Eurofighter Typhoon
Image of Eurofighter Typhoon
Technical data: Two Eurojet EJ200 turbojet engines; Thrust - 20,000lbs; Top speed - 2 Mach; Max altitude - 19.8km (65,000ft); Equipped with advanced ECR90 radar; Aircrew - One
Armament: One 27-mm Mauser cannon; long-range Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM); various air-to-ground weapons
Manufacturers: BAE Systems (UK), EADS Deutschland (Germany), EADS CASA (Spain), Alenia Aeronautica (Italy)
In service with five air forces: Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and Austria
Number of planes ordered: 232 for the UK, 180 for Germany, 121 for Italy and 87 for Spain

Eurofighter was conceived by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain in 1988 as a counter to the latest Russian fighters.

But technical challenges and the end of the Cold War led to calls for its cancellation.

As a result, the testing programme was delayed and the first prototype did not fly until 1994. Costs rose dramatically during the project and the UK's bill for buying 232 fighter planes soared from 7bn to an estimated 15bn.

Forty-three Typhoons were delivered to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire in June 2007 and the first squadron began active service in July 2007.

One of their first tasks was to shadow a Russian Bear-H aircraft detected over the North Atlantic ocean on 21 August 2007.

Light and agile

Eurofighter was designed to be a fighter-bomber that could switch from dog-fighting in the air to attacking targets on the ground all during the same mission.

The aircraft can be scrambled within minutes and will play a key role in defending Britain's airspace, gradually replacing the Tornado F3.

Its engines, made by Rolls-Royce, give enormous power in relation to the aircraft's weight. The airframe is constructed of lightweight materials such as Carbon Fibre Composites, titanium and Glass Reinforced Plastics to enhance its agility and speed.

The canards, or foreplanes, act as air-brakes and help to reduce drag.

It is controlled by computers that feed instructions into the wings and tail far faster than a human pilot could manage, allowing the pilot to throw the plane around the sky and use entirely new tactics.

The pilot can use voice commands to carry out many functions and use a combined stick and throttle for deploying weapons and defensive aids.

Manufacturers have had to address claims the jet underperformed in early trials in 2004, particularly with regard to dogfight manoeuvrability.

The Ministry of Defence said those problems had been corrected.

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