Spanish Air Force’s F-18s can finally retire in 2024 after the contract with NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) worth $2.15 billion was signed during the ILA Berlin Airshow by Carlo Mancusi. The deal struck is for 16 single-seater and four twin-seater Eurofighter combat aircraft. 

The Spanish government was looking to improve its fleet and aimed to replace the EF-18A Hornets that the 462nd Air Force Squadron is currently equipped with under Project Halcon. The old American Boeing F/A-18s are stationed at the Gando air base (Gran Canaria), located off the coasts of Morocco and Western Sahara. Its primary purpose is to provide air defense in the Canary Islands archipelago.

In 2020, Airbus Defence approached the Spanish government with a proposal and a contract for the 20 new Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft that will replace the retiring Hornets. According to Eurofighter, the contract for 16 single-seater and four twin-seater jets includes 48 of the jets’ EJ200 power plants from a group of leading engine makers.

EF-18A Hornet – C.15-66 (12-24) at Gran Canaria Airport. [Source: Wikimedia]

Closing the Deal

Secretary of State for Defence Amparo Valcarce attended the purchase ceremony on June 23, the first day of the ongoing ILA international aerospace exhibition at the Schönefeld airport in Berlin. The exhibit was held until Sunday, June 26th.

The Typhoon aircraft under the Halcon Project is expected to replace the entire EF-18 fleet between 2025 and 2030, with the final assembly of the aircraft to be done by Airbus in Getafe, Spain. According to Spanish General Miguel Ángel Martín Pérez, head of the logistics support command of the Air Force,

These new 20 Typhoons and 48 new EJ200 engines for Spain demonstrate that this weapon system is still operationally relevant for our air forces, an excellent option for core nations and any potential export country.

Mike Schoellhorn, the chief executive of Airbus Defence and Space meanwhile, said in a statement,

This additional order reinforces Spain’s commitment not only toward the Eurofighter but also to its development and industrial environment. I would like to thank the customer for its firm position with respect to European defense at a time when it is needed most.

The Typhoon aircraft under the Halcon Project is expected to replace the entire EF-18 fleet between 2025 and 2030, with the final assembly of the aircraft to be done by Airbus in Getafe, Spain. According to Spanish General Miguel Ángel Martín Pérez, head of the logistics support command of the Air Force,

These new 20 Typhoons and 48 new EJ200 engines for Spain demonstrate that this weapon system is still operationally relevant for our air forces, an excellent option for core nations and any potential export country.

Mike Schoellhorn, the chief executive of Airbus Defence and Space meanwhile said in a statement,

This additional order reinforces Spain’s commitment not only toward the Eurofighter but also to its development and industrial environment. I would like to thank the customer for its firm position with respect to European defense at a time when it is needed most.

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Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter, with its 680 aircraft sold to nine different nations all over the globe, is the most extensive defense program in Europe. Its central European partners are Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. At present, Airbus Defence and Space owns the largest portion of the Eurofighter consortium with 45%, followed by BAE Systems with 33%, and then Leonardo with 21%.

According to Atalayar, “military sources have confirmed that the new technological configuration of the recently acquired Eurofighters is the result of a joint effort between the General Staff requirements of the Spanish Halcón program and the Luftwaffe’s Quadriga project.”

The Typhoon is not new to Spain. It has been in operation in the country since 2003. Its home is the air bases of Moron and Albacete of the 11th and 14th Wing, respectively.

The Typhoon aircraft delivered to the Spanish Air Force under the Halcon Project is an improved and modernized version. Upgrades include the E-Scan Radar system implementation of the new CM02+ software package for the Tranche 1 Eurofighters. In addition, the upgrades give the “new capacity for automatic targeting of air-to-surface weapons following the integration of the Litening-III targeting pod.” Furthermore, the communications systems are improved.

Meanwhile, the EF-18A Hornets on the Gando Base were purchased second-hand from the United States Navy back in the 80s, when Spain had to look for something to replace its F-4C Phantom and F-5 Freedom Fighter under the Future Fighter and Attack Aircraft (FACA) program.

The US government proposed two fighter jets: the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-18 Hornet. What made Spain decide to choose the F-18 was its advantageous twin engine.

In Gando was the 46th Wing’s lone squadron, the 462nd, assigned the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A/B+ Hornets, and the 802nd Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron with its CN-235D and Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma. The Spanish Hornet had been with the Squadron since it made its first flight on December 4th, 1985. Its retirement in 2024 will mark its almost 40 years in service.