The four primary contractors in the Eurofighter consortium (BAE Systems, EADS and Alenia) have invested heavily in new plant and technology to produce the Typhoon. Since the procurement contracts for the aircraft were signed on a fixed price basis a major project aim has been to reduce costs and eliminate risk in the production process. After all, a decrease in production costs equates to a greater profit for the companies and conversely increased costs could result in losses.
The situation is further complicated by each member country having its own final production line. Although this implementation inevitably increases production costs it does help distribute the work equitably and allows for individual country needs to be incorporated with ease. While each country will construct their own aircraft all components and assemblies are single sourced which is the most cost effective and efficient method of procurement. This coupled with deliveries that are scheduled using the JIT, Just In Time approach mean less inventory is held in-stock lowering warehousing and similar costs.
With each tranche of Eurofighter's contractually required to cost less per aircraft than the previous the risks for the consortium are high, but the gains could be tremendous. If all these production targets are met and each tranche does indeed cost less it will be a first in military aviation.
Britain's BAE Systems have their sub-assembly plant at Samlesbury in North West England. This site produces the Stage-1 aft fuselage, the vertical stabiliser, canards, inboard flaperons and the forward fuselage cockpit assembly. Over the years the Samlesbury plant has been involved in the construction of many types of aircraft. The most recent of these being the Tornado which finished production in 1996. All final assembly for aircraft produced in the UK occurs at BAE's plant at Warton near Preston in North West England. This site has of course also been the base of operations for all British Eurofighter development aircraft.
The Samlesbury site has undergone a significant redevelopment to accomodate Eurofighter production. A raised floor mounted on 16,000 pedestals has been fitted to facilitate simple modification of the production process as well as providing easy access to utilities. This gives an almost unlimited adaptability to the process and will enable rapid addition of plant equipment to help combat any production bottlenecks. The image below shows the general layout of the Samlesbury facility, to view close up shots of some areas move your mouse over the image and click the highlighted sections.
Production at the site has been devised to substantially reduce costs through the utilisation of systems such as DLF (Direct Line Feed), JIT and production systems such as Kaban. These techniques combined with production systems and best practices taken from Airbus aviation production and Rover car production help create one of the most advanced lean manufacturing facilities in the world. Quality has also been given the highest priority with concepts such as Cellular Manufacturing whereby each cell is almost completely self-managed and is responsible and accountable for its own performance. The aim is to create a feeling of responsibility, and pride in each cells product
Several large engineering production machines are now installed or projected to be used at Samlesbury. These include four Advanced Contouring Machines (ACM), two five-axis machining centres (FAM), an advanced 10-axis, gantry-type V4 Contour Tape Laying (CTL) machine. The levels of production accuracy required are astounding, panels and fittings have tolerances equal to 70 microns. This means that parts taken from one aircraft will fit any another, without modification, as was common practice on previous aircraft.
The ACMs, produced by Germanys DS Technologie, will assist the production of the centre fuselage frames by increasing metal removal rates, allowing higher feed rates and reducing set-up times. They also allow for varying types of materials to be machined such as titanium and aluminium lithium. A unique feature of the ACMs is that both the swarf and coolant are recycled via an all new central processing facility. Here the swarf is separated, dried and blown into sealed skips and the coolant is filtered and pumped back into the machines.
Key to production work at Samlesbury are two, five-axis FAMs coupled together with laser tracker systems. These machines allow the building of assembly jigs without the need to manufacture original master templates or gauges, reducing cost and increasing productivity. To ensure the jigs produced by the FAMs are indeed accurate virtual simulation has been used to validate the machining process. This facility also has three Mitsui Seiki five-axis horizontal machining centres which form part of the machining capability for smaller detail parts.
The V4 (version-4) CTL ordered in June 1999 from Cincinnati Machine of the United States is being used to automate the production of the composite structures. The core purpose of the CTL is to automatically heat and lay the thermosetting composite tape over a pre-defined shape or tool. The machine is able to cope with both flat and contoured (or combinations of both) tools enabling the complex curves and edges of various Eurofighter parts to be followed precisely. The CTL even automates the moving and positioning of tools for subsequent lay-up of the composite material. To support high lay-up speeds and large part capability the version-4 CTL provides 12.8 m X-axis longitudinal travel and 4.2 m Y-axis traverse. It is equipped with 635mm diameter reels providing 800 to 900 m of tape. The CTL should lead to improvements in quality and reduction in production times compared to older, manual lay-up methods.
Another substantial investment is a 14 tonne, 11.5 metre high column that has been installed to support a £7.5 million drilling machine in shed four at the site. The computer controlled machine will be used to automatically drill a thousand holes in each Eurofighter front fuselage. This is one of six such machines being installed in the site as part of an investment of around £35 million. This work was previously done by hand and the new system will enable much higher throughput while also producing one of the most accurate load bearing panels on any modern aircraft.
With component manufacture based at Samlesbury the final British Eurofighter production line is based at BAE's Warton site. Each of Britain's Eurofighter's will undergo further testing by the RAF and DERA before being officially accepted into service and assigned to a squadron.
BAE Systems Avionics and Tactical Products Division produces the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) using TERPROM II. First deliveries of this module commenced in October 2000.
EADS Germany (formerly DASA) has responsibility for manufacturing the mid section fuselage. The majority of the work occurs at the Augsburg-Haunstetten, Bremen and Manching plants. The Manching plant also houses the final production line for all German Eurofighter's.
The majority of the 6.5 meter long, 1470kg centre section structure is constructed and assembled in Augsburg, this site has been key in the production of many aircraft, from the F104 through to the F-4 Phantom II. The remaining part of the centre fuselage, section 3 is built in Bremen by teams of between 6 and 18 in six assembly docks. Two of the docks are for the air intake, which includes the Varicowl lips, Sections 2B+3 are joined on another dock, and three docks in parallel are used to join 1+2A subassemblies together.
These subassemblies are passed on to the next three stations where they are fitted together. The large Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) skin, supplied by the Stadt plant is measured by an optical system called Ganymede, which matches the skin to the frames and if required, uses compensation spacers to achieve a perfect fit. This gives the centre section its rigidity. The structure is then passed on to the drilling and milling phase where 3,500 holes are drilled, riveting takes place at two docks called station 3.
Station 4 is comprised of 3 working areas where tank sealing and pressure testing is performed. At Station 5 the centre section is mounted vertically to fit the air intake and all mounting points for the other major subassemblies are now prepared. When all panels and protective coating have been applied the centre section is ready to be sent to the final assembly line.
Eurofighter engineers can now design new types of floor beams, wing ribs, and fuselage frames, thanks to a new spindle carrier head that helps streamline production of large parts. Now, instead of building up structural components from an assembly of plates, angles, channels, and fasteners, they can design larger monolithic structures. Using larger parts yields stronger, more reliable, and lower cost designs.
Landing its first production application at the Augsburg the patented three-axis spin die carrier from DS Technologie GmbH ( called the Z3 head by marketing partner Cincinnati Machine ) has been busy making centre section components for the fuselage.
The new spindle carrier's parallel kinematics contributed to a 30-50% reduction in production time compared to gimbal-type heads. Other advantages include improved surface finish, greater accuracy, better reliability, and a more compact design. In total Augsburg has four Z3 Head-equipped machines connected in two flexible manufacturing systems. Each cell consists of two linked HSC machines, two tool magazines, one pallet transportation system, a tilt load/unload, and a buffer station.
The German's are well known for their engineering prowess and the Manching plant is a good example of this. Two production lines are run in parallel in a single 172m long, 32m wide hangar employing around 1800 people during its peak output. Through the use of Just-In Time planning a minimum amount of inventory is kept for either line, reducing storage overheads. However extra capacity has been planned for to cope with additional export orders. The Manching plant also acts as the logistical supply centre for numerous items used by all consortium nations such as pumps, cylinders, etc.
The first of the two production lines equip the centre fuselage sections produced at Augsburg. Final delivery of these sections of fuselage are made to the production lines of all the consortium nations. It takes approximately forty days to fit out each centre fuselage assembly. In total there are six stations dedicated to fitting out the fuselage section, each is covered in more detail below.
The final assembly line for all German sourced Typhoon's lies directly next to the centre fuselage line. Siting production this way enables tools and personnel to be used on either line. The final assembly process comprises of six stations. Here the 334 individual items of equipment and sub-assemblies will be joined and tested to produce the completed Typhoon.
Once completed each Typhoon leaves the plant and undergoes further tests on the fuel system and engines. The pre-delivery test program ends with functional check flights; in addition aircraft are randomly tested for electromagnetic compatibility. Finally the aircraft is delivered to the paint shop where it receives its in-service colour scheme before being delivered to the Luftwaffe.
As with British aircraft the Luftwaffe conducts further pre-acceptance tests where the aircraft performance is measured against precisely defined criteria. Upon completion and subject to passing all the criteria the aircraft is accepted into service.
TELDIX delivered the first production model of the Cockpit Interface Unit (CIU) on the 28th November 2000. Two days later they delivered the first production models of the Avionic and Navigation Computers.
Italy is responsible for manufacturing the left wing, outboard flaperons, the second and third stages of the aft fuselage.
Foggia is home to Alenia's manufacturing base for the left wing of the Typhoon. In September 2001 Alenia placed an order with the U.S. company Cincinnati Machines for two High Contour Tape Laying (HCTL) machines, deliveries are expected from late-2001 through 2003. As with the CTLs at Samlesbury the machines will be used to automate the production of, in this case composite sections of the left wing. These particular CTLs are provided with new high-contour heads which increase clearance around the tape laying head itself by 60%. This in turn enables the machine to better handle more highly-contoured, angular shapes.
Microtechnica are the prime contractors for the Leading Edge Actuation System (LEAS) and the Air Flow Control System (AFCS) for the EJ200's.
Major components manufactured by Spain include the right wing and leading edge slats.
Indra produce the Maintenance Data Panel (MDP) and Front Computer (FC).
In addition to core production in the four original Eurofighter nations a number of other companies from various countries are involved. BAE Systems Australia is at present investigating conformal fuel tanks and working on software related to the Typhoon. In Norway, Kongsberg Protect manufacture the front wheel well covers. Although Greece has signalled its intent to join the Eurofighter consortium by purchasing 60 aircraft its current industrial contribution is limited to producing external fuel tanks. This situation is expected to increase once formal contracts are signed. A number of U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in Eurofighter, for example Planar and dpiX supply the Eagle-6 AMLCD units for the cockpit displays.
 : BAE Systems, Warton, UK