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Eurofighter is designed and built by a four-nation consortium consisting of: British Aerospace (UK), Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Germany), Alenia Aerospazio (Italy) and CASA (Spain). To date, a total of 620 firm orders for the aircraft have been placed by the four partner nations (UK 232, Germany 180, Italy 121 and Spain 87), with a further 90 on option and possible orders from other NATO countries a strong possibility. Due to enter Royal Air Force service in mid-2002, Eurofighter will replace the Tornado F3 in the air defence role and Jaguars in the ground attack mission.

Initial design of the aircraft began in 1986 by the three nations involved in the Tornado project (UK, Germany and Italy) who required an air superiority fighter to counter the next generation of Russian-built fighters, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and SU-27 Flanker, then entering service. One key element of the design was manoeuvrability during close air combat. A one-off prototype, the Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) was built by British Aerospace with help from Germany to demonstrate some of the systems envisaged for Eurofighter, including the carefree handling fly-by-wire system, multi-function cockpit displays and direct voice input.

The aircraft incorporates several new state-of-the-art systems including the ECR-90 multi-mode radar built by companies from all four partner nations and IRIS-T an Infra-Red Search and Track weapon aiming system coupled with helmet-mounted symbology. Power for Eurofighter is provided by two EJ200 afterburning turbofans built by Eurojet, a consortium of MTU (Germany), Fiat (Italy), ITP (Spain) and Rolls-Royce (UK). The engines are smaller than the RB199s fitted to the Tornado, but offer a 25% increase in power. ITP is also developing a vectoring nozzle for the engine for a possible future upgrade. Other systems include a Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS), wide-angle Head Up Display (HUD) and VTAS, a Voice Throttle and Stick control system that includes Direct Voice Input of some commands and HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) to ease pilot workload

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