by: Matthew Potter
March 26, 2014

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Peter Weger makes his maiden flight in Eurofighter typhoon.

Peter Weger makes his maiden flight in Eurofighter typhoon.

Europe’s biggest defence programme marks a 20 year anniversary today as it celebrates the first flight of the Eurofighter Typhoon on 27th March 1994.

Since that day in Manching, Germany, when Development Aircraft 1 (DA1) was flown by Test Pilot Peter Weger, over 400 Eurofighter Typhoons have been delivered with six international customers operating the aircraft and a seventh signed up.

The milestone was marked this week at Eurofighter’s main European offices close to Munich where Test Pilots from all the four nations that make up the Eurofighter programme came together to re-live the maiden flights made in Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain. They were joined by the General Manager of NETMA, Air Vice-Marshal Graham Farnell, the Chief Executive Officer of Eurofighter, Alberto Gutierrez, Board Members of both organisations and Eurofighter employees.

Alberto Gutierrez, said: “This is an historic day for the European defence industry. We have built up a fantastic legacy in this aircraft and established the foundation of today’s defence industry in Europe through unprecedented co-operation and a determined focus to build and deliver a world-class product.

“Twenty years ago, none of us could know how the world would change and few, if any of us, could have anticpated the challenges that this would bring. Now more than ever it is vital that we maintain and develop our European capabilities both in the commercial and military domains. It is in all our interests to do this.”

The Spanish-born CEO added: “The Eurofighter Typhoon that Peter Weger first flew 20 years ago is very different to the one that flies today. From the outset, the aircraft was built with capability enhancement in mind and the process of enhancement is what delivers a long-term return on investment. The Eurofighter is now the backbone of a number of air forces and will be in service for decades to come. It is a significant European asset and one which showcases to the world the very best in technology and innovation.”

NETMA’s General Manager, Graham Farnell said: “The dream of our predecessors, some 30 years ago, of a world-class European Fighter Aircraft, became a reality on 27th March 1994. This success could not have been reached without a huge amount of hard work and dedication from so many people in so many organisations across Europe.”

“The aircraft they built is now fully operational in the air forces of Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and with our partners in Austria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Soon it will also be delivered to Oman. It is defending skies and providing a 24/7 watch over Europe, the Middle East – and around the Antartic region. The challenges we face today are no less demanding than those which our predecessors had when they set out to develop this aircraft. We now need to show the same resolve, determination and vision that they had.”

While it was DA1 that first flew in Germany in 1994, it was the British who next took to the air with DA2 a few days later on 6th April. Italy followed in June 1995 and Spain in August 1996. Today, Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are built at Final Assembly Plants in all four countries.

In total more than 225,000 flying hours have been accumulated with unprecedented levels of reliability. The aircraft has also seen active service in Libya, has been used on Baltic patrol exercises and has recently been showcased at one of the world’s leading air-to-air combat training events, Red Flag, at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Peter Weger, who flew that first flight said: “I had little idea when I made that maiden flight from Manching what an amazing story this would become. I knew I was piloting an incredible aircraft and we had something special. It is certainly one of those days that lives with you for the rest of your life.”

Photo courtesy of Eurofighter

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