Why Spain Is Rejecting US’ F-18 Super Hornets For Eurofighter Typhoons?

Spain has decided to ramp up its air force by replacing its ageing fleet of F-18 Super Hornets with Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighter jets.

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Under Project Halcón or Project Hawk, the manufacturer is in the process of negotiations with the Spanish government “to mature the proposal,” reported The Drive.

Spanish Air Force’s oldest fleet of 20 EF-18 Hornets, although the fleet was modernised to the F/A-18A+ standard, is used to defend Canary Island, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa.

The Spanish Air Force already possesses 73 Eurofighters, comprising of 59 single-seaters and 14 twin-seaters, as part of a previous order, which was delivered this year. However, three have been lost in accidents.

The manufacturer, Airbus, is expecting to sign a contract for 20 more Eurofighters in the next year. 

Reportedly, the new Eurofighters will feature the E-Scan radar. It is being developed by the Euroradar consortium comprising Leonardo (Great Britain, Italy), Indra (Spain) and sensor solutions provider HENSOLDT (Germany).

It is capable of superior detection along with large antenna array for the highest power output. BAE Systems dubbed the E-scan radar as the “world’s most advanced Air to Air and Air to Surface electronic radar”. 

The E radar is based on AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) technology and will significantly enhance the capabilities and survivability of the Eurofighter.

“The contract for the Captor-E radar is the main achievement to equip Eurofighter with sensors that ensure today’s dominance of the aircraft also in the threat scenarios of tomorrow,” said Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space.

The Typhoons are delivered, in what is called “Tranches”, which differ in terms of avionics and capabilities. The Spanish Air Force’s current fleet of 73 had 19 Tranche 1, 34 Tranche 2, and 20 Tranche 3 aircraft. 

Of the 19 Tranche 1, 17 surviving Tranches will be upgraded to Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 equipment, giving them a full multirole capability. The 20 new Eurofighters will be of Tranche 3+/ Tranche 4. 

According to Thomas Newdick of The Drive, one possibility that’s been suggested is to replace the remaining Hornets by purchasing three batches of 20 Typhoons, to spread the cost, which will be particularly important as the Spanish economy takes a hit from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The Eurofighter Typhoon, although lacks stealth, is considered to be the world’s most advanced swing-role combat aircraft providing simultaneously deployable Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface capabilities.

Through the additions of weapons like Paveway IV, Storm Shadow, Meteor, Brimstone II, and other elements of a ‘Phased’ enhancement programme, and carrying out combat operations like Operation Shader over Syria and Iraq, as well as air policing missions in the Baltics, the Typhoons have proven operational capabilities.

The Eurofighter’s nose is larger than that of all the comparable fighters, which means that the antenna is much larger and consequently more powerful than that of competing aircraft.

This, together with the ability to mechanically rotate the antenna with a larger angle of view, increases both the detection area and the field of regard in comparison with other AESA radar systems.

It has enhanced manoeuvrability and has already been ordered by countries including Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, with Kuwait and Qatar. 

Under the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition (MMRCA) 2.0, Eurofighter Typhoon is a hot contender. Earlier, Dassault Rafales won the contract over the Eurofighters.