Special Report : First Eurofighter Arrives in Austria
The first export customer for Eurofighter, Austria, took delivery of its first Eurofighter Typhoon. Helmut Skrdla reports.
Austria’s Air Force enters the 4th Generation Combat Aircraft Era
After more than a month of - mostly administrative - delays, the first Austrian Single Seat Eurofighter “Typhoon” (Cn# AS001), ferried by EADS Pilot Martin Angerer, finally touched down at Zeltweg Air Base on 12th July for the official Handover to the Austrian Air Force (AAF). Minister of Defense Norbert Darabos, who during the last months negotiated with EADS Military Air Systems a reduction of the original order (signed in July 2003 for 18 aircraft all including an upgrade to Block 8 standard) down to now only 15 aircraft of Block 5 level, was absent from the event.
His absence was also a sign of the ongoing quarrel between Austria's Socialist Party (SPÖ) being against, and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) being in favor of the deal, an innerpolitical situation that clouded much of the technical and logistical progress made in the procurement of the new fighter jets during the last months. AS001 completed its maiden flight - with EADS Test Pilot Chris Worning in the cockpit - on 21st March of this year in Manching, while training of the first Austrian pilots and a base contingent of technical crews finished in late May at German JG73 in Laage. On 9th July AS002 also took off for its maiden flight and is now scheduled for delivery in August, with two more aircraft following this year in October and December, and the remaining eleven to arrive in 2008.
Initial readiness of the new system for QRA operations should be reached next July - less than a year from now - just in time for Austria to return the twelve F-5E "Tiger II" jets currently loaned from the Swiss Air Force as an interim solution between the the Saab J-35OE Draken's end of operational life in 2005 and the delivery of “Typhoons” presently in progress. While some logistical delays and re-plannings have now become necessary after the rather unforeseen - and purely politically motivated - reduction of order volume, the AAF is confident to make this ambitious deadline on time.
For the Four-Nations Eurofighter program, July 12th also marks a an important milestone, being the first ever EF Typhoon transferred to an export customer and the 125th aircraft in total delivered, a fleet which altogehter has logged more than 20.000 flight hours already.
Report and photos by Helmut Skrdla ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 28 March 2013