The notorious European Combat Aircraft, which then became the Eurofighter, and was then rebranded the Typhoon, has each cost the RAF 75% more than predicted.
That's according to a report from the official spending watchdog the National Audit Office published last week.The NAO blamed Euro-muddle and international bureaucracy for problems getting spares and training RAF pilots for the planes. The spending watchdog also points out that it will be 2018 before the planes can do all that they are supposed to do, when their ground attack capability is delivered. Until then, the official watchdog says, the Eurofighter is still not giving British taxpayers value for money.
The European Combat Aircraft was a Euro-project started by Thatcher’s Tories in 1979 and kicked off formally in 1985 as part of Thatcher’s Tory strategy of running down Britain’s manufacturing capability in favour of the 'City' and the 'service sector'.
Britain was no longer to build her own fighter planes to defend her own airspace. Instead a Euro-project involving the French, the Germans, the Italians and the Spanish was set in motion. As this would undermine the independent defence capability of all these nations, Brussels beamed approvingly, the more so when the ECA became the Eurofighter,
It was designed to fight Soviet planes for air supremacy over a Third World War battleground in Europe, dogfighting now long obsolete MiGs and Sukhois over the radioactive ruins of Germany. By the time the plane actually saw daylight, in 1994, after the endless international wrangling and threats by Germany to withdraw finding typical of matters European, the enemy it was designed to fight had annoyingly vanished.
The development budget had also overrun to the extent that the cost, over £20 billion, was three times the original budget. Nonetheless in the interest of being good Europeans the project pressed on, and the first planes actually entered service in 1998, rebranded as the Typhoon, an insult to the original World War 2 all-British Hawker Typhoon.
The current Euro-Typhoon still doesn’t do what it was designed to do, which in any case is of little use in today’s world.
In fact the Euro-plane is a major disappointment all round. The RAF has cut its original order of 232 to 160. Last July, Italy cancelled a 2bn euros order for its final 25 Typhoons - about a fifth of its original order. Instead it decided to buy the American F-35 aircraft. The F-35 started development in the late 1990’s and is a generation ahead of the Eurofighter Typhoon.
It was designed for today’s world, not to fight the long defunct Soviets thirty years ago in last century’s war. Most importantly, it was built by one country, the USA, and so training and parts come from one producer. Whilst, as the NAO pointed out, it is a nightmare trying to get parts for the Eurofighter from suppliers in several countries speaking several languages.
In a desperate bid to recoup spiralling costs, 72 Eurofighters have been flogged off to the Saudis, which means they will be at the disposal of al-Qaeda after it overthrows the corrupt sheiks of the House of Saud.
Muddle, confusion, delay, cost overrun, bureaucratic infighting, and an end result that costs too much and does too little, too late.
The saga of the Eurofighter sums up the European Union in a nutshell.