Typhoon Key to Europe Air Power 

Exclusive interview with Eurofighter CEO Giancarlo Mezzanatto on the future of Typhoon and the state of the programme

Q

Giancarlo, your time as CEO is taking place during a very challenging geopolitical period. How do you think the Eurofighter Programme is making a difference in this ‘new world order’?

The world order changed very quickly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After more than 75 years of peace in Europe, the threat of war is a very real one. There are also other crises worldwide, particularly in the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific regions. Considering all these issues, there is a compelling need for European countries to increase responsibility for their own security.

The increase of defence readiness and strengthening of the industrial base are now clear objectives for European countries.

These must take place as — regardless of the outcome of the 2024 Presidential Elections — it is likely that the United States will need to prioritise its military resources on multiple fronts.

The Eurofighter programme is one of Europe's leading defence collaboration programme successes. It has been proven to make a significant difference operationally as well as economically for the core nations.

The positive impact the programme has made on the core nations’ economies is considerable, especially in the role it plays in sustaining the European defence industrial base.

Q

What operational role does the Typhoon platform currently play?

Typhoon is and will continue to be the central pillar of Europe Air Power. More than 80 per cent of the Partner Nations’ operational air missions, during the past two years, have been carried out by Eurofighter.

Thanks to its versatility and swing-role capabilities, Typhoon has been a strong and reliable asset. Whether that’s in Air policing and QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) on the Eastern flank of NATO, or on combat missions in the Middle East, in Syria, Iraq and more recently in Yemen to defend Red Sea maritime security. 

Eurofighter Nations are engaged in air policing operations to protect the eastern borders of NATO in the Baltic countries, in Poland and Romania. Air superiority is an essential requirement in any battlefield and in this operational scenario. Eurofighter represents a fundamental deterrence factor in Europe.

Q

An independent study into the impact of the programme on the core nations was recently released. What do the findings show?

That’s right. The report, published in April, by PwC, illustrates the significant positive impact on our Core Nations’ economies of the Eurofighter Programme.

The report provides a comprehensive look into the Programme — spanning the entire spectrum of development, production and support activities across the four Core Nations — and highlights the contribution of export contracts.

The economic contribution is evaluated in terms of GDP, tax revenues and employment generated by the Programme. It looks forward to what that could be over the next ten years.

The report’s ‘base scenario’ includes the current contracts, plus an additional 25 aircraft under negotiation with Spain. It shows the programme will generate a GDP impact of €58 billion and tax revenues of €14 billion over the next ten years.

With the acquisition of additional orders by the Core Nations (which are currently under discussion), and other export opportunities, these figures have the potential to reach a GDP impact of €90 billion and tax revenues of €22 billion.

If properly supported, the Programme will sustain a supply chain of 400 companies and a highly skilled workforce of around 98,000 people across the four Core Nations. Of this, around 24,000 are in Germany.

The study shows the huge economic return for the founding countries of the Programme, but also highlights the interdependencies across the four Nations. The investment of one nation impacts the economies of the others. The investments from export benefit the economy of all four Core Nations.

Q

You talked in the past about the need to sustain European defence readiness. How is the Programme contributing to the sustainment of the European defence industrial base?

A recent European Commission paper was clear; European defence readiness will only be achieved through a responsive and resilient European Defence Industry. During the past two years, almost 80 per cent of European defence acquisitions have been made outside Europe, with the US representing 63 per cent. Therefore, it is very much in Europe’s interest to reverse this trend.

The Eurofighter Programme’s sustainment of highly skilled jobs, with high labour productivity rates, represents a fundamental factor for the fighter Industries of the Core Nations. Furthermore, technology and industrial assets created by the Programme are a solid baseline of Defence Industry capability. These need to be preserved and further developed.

This is essential to prevent overreliance on US technology and to provide a bridge to the sixth generation programmes. How do you impress upon the customer to continue to invest in Eurofighter when many are looking ahead. I fully appreciate the need for our nations to invest in the sixth generation systems.

However, according to the current plans, these new systems will not be available before 2035-2040. Taking into account the current geopolitical scenario, there is an urgent operational need to strengthen European Defence now, and that is where Eurofighter comes out on top.

Furthermore, engineering knowledge and industrial assets must be preserved to be ready for the sixth generation programmes, and the only way to do it is to further invest on the current fighter platforms.

Typhoon also offers the opportunity to test and develop new technologies and advanced sensors, creating a natural bridge to the sixth generation platforms and systems. Typhoon’s life will extend to 2060, which means there will anyway be a need to guarantee the Long Term Evolution of Eurofighter.

It is not a case of Typhoon or sixth generation — the reality is that European forces will need both systems to provide a meaningful air defence.

Q

Having completed more than one year in the CEO’s office, how do you see the future of Typhoon?

Given the relevance of the Programme from an operational, economical and industrial point of view, and given the current geopolitical scenario, we are working with our customers to further enhance the capabilities of the platform and keep it operationally effective for many years to come.

Enhancement Package 4 (P4E) and the Long Term Evolution programme will provide Typhoon with powerful sensors, active and passive, enhanced electronic warfare capabilities, the integration of new weapons, more advanced data processing capacity and an evolution of the cockpit and Human Machine Interface.

 The future of Typhoon is bright — not only because of the sale opportunities in the next two years by Core and Export Nations — but also because there are real operational requirements to further enhance its capabilities.

 In my view, this will safeguard our Defence Industry and will seamlessly bridge our Defence technology to the sixth generation systems.