Britain’s Royal Air Force has detected a defect within the Eurofighter Typhoon jets, causing production in Germany to be put on hold whilst the fault is investigated. Both Germany and Britain have halved the recommended annual flight time for the jets from 3,000 to 1,500 hours annually as a precaution, and Germany is refusing to take possession of any new jets until the problem is solved.
The error detected involves drill holes in the planes’ fuselage and results from insufficient sanding down during manufacture of that part by BAE Systems in the UK. Although the defect is not thought to pose a danger to pilots flying the jets, Spiegel Online has reported that, at worst, the defect could cause the hull of the plane to become unstable.
The production of the planes is managed by Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, a Germany-based consortium co-owned by BAE systems, Airbus, and Italian company Alenia Aermacchi. More than 100,000 personnel from 400 subcontracted companies across Europe are involved in the construction of each jet, according to the Typhoon’s website.
Alberto Gutirrez, CEO of Eurofighter GmbH said in a statement that his company was “aware and actively managing a recently discovered quality issue concerning one of the manufacturing processes used during the assembly of the Eurofighter Typhoon rear fuselage.
“We would like to make clear that this issue does not affect flight safety, neither does it impact ongoing fleet flying or limit fleet operations,” he added.
BAE said in a statement that it continues to deliver aircraft “in accordance with contractual requirements and in line with the schedule required by the UK Royal Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.”
In Austria, Peter Pilz, security spokesman for the Green Party has called on his government to scrap its Eurofigher contract. According to The Local, he was outraged that Austria had only become aware of the defect through press reports. Austria currently has 15 of the jets in operation.
The Typhoon, described by the RAF as “a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft”, was originally conceived as a joint venture between United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain. Both Germany and Britain put in initial orders for 250 units each, and both currently have more than 100 Eurofighters in operation each. Since then, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman have also gone on to place orders for the aircraft.
However, Business Insider has reported that both Germany and Britain have now halved their initial orders, prompting the head of Airbus’s defence division to warn that, if no more orders were placed, production would cease in 2018.
Edward Hunt, a Eurofighter expert told ABC News that the fleet is normally very reliable.