For 20 years, Airbus and the German Air Force in Manching have been working together to ensure that German Eurofighters and Tornados are ready for action when it counts. Here are 20 facts and figures about the cooperation that you should definitely know.
On 1 January 2003, Airbus and the German Air Force established the Eurofighter Cooperation Cell (EKZ) in Manching. The joint mission of Bundeswehr soldiers and Airbus employees: to ensure that the German Air Force's Eurofighter fleet is operational 24/7, wherever it is needed.
Airbus and German Air Force teams carry out the flight-hour-dependent inspections and repairs in the EKZ. They also fit necessary modifications that improve the Eurofighter and keep it competitive. Furthermore, they provide customer services at home and abroad and undertake special measures, such as repairs and, in individual cases, transportation of Eurofighters for the customer.
In the Eurofighter Cooperation Cell (EKZ) in Manching Bundeswehr soldiers and Airbus employees ensure that the German Air Force's Eurofighter fleet is operational 24/7, wherever it is needed.
To date, EKZ teams have carried out some 350 Eurofighter inspections and repairs. In 2022, EKZ teams performed the 1,000th customer service, polishing out non-critical scratches on the canopy and windscreen of two Eurofighters.
2013 is still the record year for customer services. In total, the FCA teams made 80 sorties.
As a result of the Ukraine war, the Luftwaffe's Eurofighters are being used more often, for example, to secure NATO's eastern flank. This has also increased the need for inspections in the short- and medium-term. Last year, the number of contracted Eurofighters increased from 27 to 31. The cooperation has thus proven its flexibility and reliability.
With 42 deliveries, 2020 was a record year for the cooperation. This was only possible through joint efforts, a focus of all participants on order fulfilment and the underlying framework conditions at the time.
On April 1, 2003, Airbus and the German Air Force put the Eurofighter System Support Centre (SUZ EF) into service. The colleagues in the SUZ EF provide technical and logistical in-service support for the Eurofighter in service. In addition, they support the air force with a user help desk for questions relating to the operational use of the Eurofighter and take care of software maintenance and changes to the weapons system.
Since 2016, the SUZ EF has been independently carrying out certified modifications for the entire weapons system for the German Air Force. This also applies to software and hardware components that were not originally part of the German development share. More than 40 such national modifications have already been scaffolded into the German Eurofighter fleet in direct response to operational requirements.
As part of a national modification project, the Recce-Lite reconnaissance tank has been integrated into the Eurofighter in 2019, giving the fighter jet the same aerial reconnaissance capabilities as the Tornado.
When the first five Eurofighters entered service in 2004 at the Tactical Air Force Squadron 73 in Laage, the first systems engineer course also started at the SUZ EF. Engineers and computer scientists who have completed their studies are trained to become Eurofighter specialists in this one-year internal SUZ EF course.
In September and October 2022, the SUZ EF provided round-the-clock support to the German Air Force during the first deployment of a Eurofighter contingent (Operation Rapid Pacific) to the Indo-Pacific region.
Martin Beltz, Airbus Field Services Representative and adviser to the 74th Fighter Wing for the radar and the Defensive Aid Sub-System (DASS) on the Eurofighter, during Rapid Pacific exercise in Australia.
Operational software change
As part of the air force exercise "Pitch Black", the SUZ EF implemented the first operational software fix within just a few weeks.
Safe return home
After 40,000 kilometres per aircraft, 700 flying hours and more than 500 air refuellings, all six Eurofighters land safely at their home base in Neuburg, thanks in part to the efforts of the SUZ EF.
Unique test environment
The SUZ EF has a unique Eurofighter test and development environment in Manching, the so-called ‘Rig’. It replicates the complete weapons system.
In 2023, the SUZ EF celebrated the topping-out ceremony for the "Sensor Roof Lab". The facility tests the Eurofighter's new E-Scan radar.
Software upgrades for the Tornado
On 24 November, 2004, Airbus and the German Air Force established the Tornado System Support Centre (SUZ). Here, Bundeswehr soldiers and Airbus employees developed and maintained the Tornado's software for avionics, mission evaluation and the Electronic Warfare Centre.
On 28 November, 2014, Airbus and the Bundeswehr founded the Tornado Cooperation Cell (TKZ). The TKZ teams carry out repair work, major overhauls and life-extension measures, also known as Service Life Enhancements or SLEs.
23 measures, 32 customer-service missions
In 2022, the TKZ teams repaired 23 Tornados and carried out 32 customer-service missions.
Together into the future
20 years after the start, about 270 soldiers and more than 500 Airbus employees are now working in cooperation for more operational readiness and a successful future.