The Spanish government approved a budget of 4.593 billion euros on September 12 for the expansion of the “Halcón” programme, which includes the purchase of an additional 25 Eurofighters to replace some EF-18M aircraft on the mainland and meet the requirements of the first phase, in which 20 aircraft were purchased for the Canary Islands.
As part of the “Halcón” programme, Spain confirmed in June 2022 its intention to acquire an additional 20 Eurofighter EF2000 combat aircraft (designated C.16) for 2 billion euros to replace the F/A-18 Hornets (or C.15) that the US Navy sold to the Ejército del Aire y de Espaa in the 1990s to equip its 46th squadron based in the Canary Islands. This was an urgent matter because these aircraft, unlike the fifty others of the same type operated by the 12th and 15th squadrons, had not been modernised.
If Madrid does not decide to cut back on the size of its combat aviation, then it will need to purchase additional fighter-bombers to replace all of its F/A-18 Hornets. Because of this, a third order for Eurofighter EF-2000s may be placed in the coming years, or another kind of aircraft may be explored. It is not anticipated that the SCAF will go into service until the year 2040.
In August 2022, the newspaper El Pais published an article stating that there is no question that the F-35 Lightning II is the superior choice for the Ejército del Aire. Its performance is far higher while maintaining a cost comparable to the Eurofighter.
The new order announced by Madrid will assist in securing the production schedule at the Airbus facility in Getafe and provide additional work for the British company BAE Systems, which is responsible for producing over a third of the components for each Eurofighter destined for the Ejército del Aire y España.
Some of the F/A-18 Hornets still in service in 2030 will be replaced by “Tranche 4” Eurofighters equipped with the AESA CAPTOR-E active electronically scanned array radar and the long-range air-to-air Meteor missile.
Radars of the AESA ESCAN MK1 variety manufactured by Indra are an essential component that significantly improves the capabilities of fighter aircraft. The new electronically scanned array radar, developed in collaboration with the German sensor maker Hensoldt, will have the capacity to concurrently detect many targets at close range while also scanning the airspace hundreds of kilometres away for possible threats. Because it is equipped with this radar sensor, the aircraft will have superiority in the air and on the ground.
As a contributing member of the EuroDASS consortium, the Spanish plane will have the provision of the DASS protection subsystem. This component notifies the pilot of any potential dangers to the aircraft and initiates several preventative safeguards, which interfere with and deceive any hostile electronic systems that may be present.
In addition to this, it will be equipped with Brimstone air-to-ground missiles, a Taurus KEPD 350 long-range cruise missile, an AGM-88E Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM), an Iris-T air-to-air missile, an Aargm air-to-surface missile, and a JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bomb.
The Tranche 4 version resembles the Quadriga aircraft Germany ordered for its air force. Germany ordered 38 aircraft of this sort, as well as the supply and integration of up to 14 additional avionics equipment for the platform’s key subsystems, including communication systems, cabin survival monitoring, consumables monitoring, and platform health management. It has anti-ship and ground attack capabilities, but its air-to-air mission is carried out by the Meteor missiles it carries.
As previously mentioned, one of the new features that will come standard in the Eurofighters that Spain has purchased, and which some of those already in service have, is the ability to be armed with Meteor missiles, medium-range air-to-air missiles (150 kilometres) that provide Spanish fighters with air combat capability beyond visual range. This new missile represents a significant improvement in the Eurofighter’s capability to combat contemporary air threats.
After installing the P2Eb upgrade package on the C16 aircraft – the aircraft’s designation in the Air Force – the missile is integrated into the aircraft’s capabilities, explains the Spanish Air Force.
The Spanish Air Force currently has a fleet of 69 Eurofighter jets (17 Tranche 1, the oldest ones but with the Cnm02+ upgrade package; 32 Tranche 2, and 20 Tranche 3) based in Los Llanos and Morón de la Frontera (Seville). The Air Force is working to enable all versions to use this missile. In Tranche 3, the capability comes as standard. The new ones come with Tranche 4 as standard.
The Eurofighter is one of the most powerful combat aircraft due to its exceedingly powerful engines and low gross weight, which provides a significant advantage in thrust-to-weight ratio.