21:09 GMT +323 September 2017
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    A British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet is seen on the tarmac at the British airbase at Akrotiri, near Cyprus' second city of Limassol on December 3, 2015

    Austria in the Market for New Fighter Jets as Vienna Sues Airbus for Deception

    © AFP 2017/ IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU
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    Austria has announced that they intend to end their participation in defense consortium Eurofighter’s jet program early than expected. They will be replacing their 15 Typhoon Tranche 1 multirole fighters with a new fleet as part of their ongoing lawsuit against Eurofighter.

    The 15 Tranche 1s make up the fighter jet capacity of the Austrian air force, but the Austrian defense ministry has announced that they intend to phase the jet out entirely by 2020. A primary consideration is cost: the estimated cost of maintaining their fleet of Typhoons over the next 30 years is 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion,) while the estimated cost of buying, operating, and maintaining a new fleet of cheaper aircraft could be as little as 3 billion euros.

    Vienna may lease the aircraft from another country rather than buy them from a contractor. Austria has done this before: before they purchased the Typhoons, they leased a dozen Northrop F-5 Tiger light fighters from Switzerland. This could prove cheaper (as the aircraft owner would foot the bill of construction) and strengthen an Austrian defense relationship.

    Austria is also considering purchasing some Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcons, the most popular fighter plane in the world. 

    "It is necessary to get a grip on the overflowing costs of the Eurofighter," Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said in the statement. He added that he expected that Vienna was "likely" to receive some kind of compensation for the allegedly fraudulent purchase of the Tranche 1s.

    Austria is in the midst of two parliamentary inquiries against Airbus and Eurofighter, a consortium of various European aerospace and defense companies also including the British BAE Systems and the Italian Leonardo. Airbus CEO Tom Enders is being investigated by Vienna prosecutors.

    In July 2003, Austria announced that they would be purchasing 18 Typhoon Tranche 2s (later reduced to 15) from Eurofighter to serve as their Air Force's combat aircraft. However, Austria claimed that when they received the aircraft in 2007, instead of it being brand-new Tranche 2s each valued at 109 million euros ($124 million), the delivered planes were partially-used Tranche 1s that cost Austria 114 million euros apiece.

    Austrian prosecutors investigated allegations that Eurofighter used as much as 100 million euros to lobby for the Austrian government to select their planes for the program. This led to a probe which resulted in the current allegations of deception and fraud levied against Eurofighter and Airbus.

    A joint statement from Airbus and Eurofighter said that "it is not for us to comment" on the procurement process, and that the Eurofighter fighter jet series  "works very well for all other customers". The plane is currently in service with eight nations in Europe and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

    When asked if the lawsuits had any connection to the Austrian legislative election which will take place in October, which could potentially herald the end of Doskozil's term as Defense Minister, the minister said that he expected the lawsuit to continue even if the government changes.

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    Tags:
    fighter jet, fraud, lawsuit, Eurofighter Typhoon, Eurofighter, Airbus, Austria
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