When Volker Paltzo took up his new role as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH on 1st January 2016, he said: “With Eurofighter Typhoon we have a world class combat aircraft on offer and I am absolutely convinced that we will continue to win new customers.” We speak to the CEO to discover what his vision for the Eurofighter Typhoon programme is.

What do you see as the current state of play for the Eurofighter platform?

We have 599 aircraft on order and more than 470 aircraft delivered, so in that sense it shows we are relatively mature both in terms of our development and production programmes.

Following the recent order from Kuwait we know production will continue until at least 2021 and this is the baseline of our mid-term plan. From a capability point of view, we have a very clear road map.

Achieving the next levels of capability will require us to meet a very challenging development programme.

It’s a way forward that has been agreed with the core nations and one that also reflects the requirements coming out of our export community. Achieving the next levels of capability will require us to meet a very challenging development programme but we have the certainty of having the whole programme under contract. This programme will ensure Eurofighter remains at the absolute leading edge of capability well into the next decade.

Are you happy that there is clarity in terms of the capability road map?

Yes. We have come through a situation where our customers had to think about their military strategies. We have also seen a great deal of activity over the last couple of years that has led to procurement decisions on a four-nation basis.

At the same time our main development contract has now been completed with all the agreed capabilities delivered to the customers. These are now part of the current standard of the aircraft software. That’s important because it means engineering capacity around Europe has freed up for work on the existing fleet and for adding additional capabilities.

I’d also say that the programme and decisions on how we can evolve the aircraft have been well managed by the two main contracting partners Eurofighter GmbH and NETMA.

Given where you are in terms of production and capability — is the future about being even more responsive to export customer needs?

I believe we have always been responsive to export customers’ needs — indeed we have tried to respond to the individual needs of every customer. But from an Export perspective we have already seen dedicated requirements coming out of the Saudi and Omani customers and now we are going to introduce the Kuwait package too, which will sit on top of the core requirements.

Our development programme is building upon several standards and we are adding an Export element to each of the blocks we are delivering.

Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) brings enhanced air-to-surface capability and enables mixed configurations, air-to-air and air- to-surface. That standard has already been developed and released into service in several steps.

Then we have P2E, which in the main is the Meteor and Storm Shadow integration. We are also working on P3E which will bring Brimstone. Of course, alongside these there are several other capability enhancements, like more options for mixed configurations and more regulatory requirements that have to be introduced into the jet to keep them compliant.

P3EB is the configuration we will deliver to Kuwait. This has been fully defined and contracted from the Italian MOD over to NETMA and into the Eurofighter consortium.

The headline from the Kuwait contract announcement was the integration of E-Scan radar into this standard. What’s the significance of this?

That’s correct. Kuwait will be the launching customer for an AESA radar capability. It’s a significant milestone for the programme because the AESA radar is not just changing a black box, it is changing the main sensor of the aircraft and a lot of computing capability. It impacts on the attack identification system, the avionics, the structure and so on. Indeed because of the structural challenges involved we may even need another fatigue test under contract.

Given all the different strands of capability development and testing work this appears to be a very intense period for Eurofighter?

Absolutely. When I was here from 2009 to 2011 as Chief Operating Officer (COO) Capabilities, we were thinking ahead and working with our customers on the Business Model Review. At that time a lot of the things we discussed were quite conceptual.

Today it’s great to see the contracts have been signed and the developments are ongoing. Everything we discussed back then as mere possibilities have turned into actions. That’s fantastic to see but on the flipside new capabilities and new customers also mean new configurations and when you have more and more standards of aircraft all of this needs to be managed accurately. This is a challenge in itself. You have to manage this programme in all its complexity.

Following the successful Kuwait signature how confident are you that future campaigns will be successful?

Meteor integration

Dual firing of Meteor from Typhoon aircraft

The Kuwait contract has brought fresh energy to the whole programme and there is potential for further sales. The Kuwait contract helps to keep the production lines open. At the same time our partner companies are currently running campaigns in several regions around the world; the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and in Europe.

In my view there’s a realistic possibility we could contract additional customers to the Eurofighter programme in the future. We certainly should not be pessimistic but realistic. And of course the Kuwait capability aircraft is completely different to the original Eurofighter.

It may look the same from the outside but inside it’s a step change — in terms of the capabilities it embodies and missions it can fulfil. There’s the radar, air-to-air is strengthened with Meteor integration and air- to-surface has evolved with Storm Shadow and Brimstone laser guided bombs. And of course there’s more to come.

How important do you believe the Eurofighter aircraft will be in future decades for European air defence?

There’s no doubt Eurofighter will be the cornerstone of European air forces until the middle of the century. That’s not just my view, that’s clear from the air force reviews that have taken place.

I also firmly believe the nations will continue to invest into the capabilities of the platform for the next 20 years. Therefore we will see significant capability upgrades for the aircraft. In terms of the aircraft’s evolution we are looking at three time frames – from today until 2021, between 2021 and 2026 and beyond 2026.

The first time frame already has a distinct road map. The next package P4E will pave the way into 2026. What happens beyond that is still under debate and we will work with our customers to define their future requirements. In fact, these discussions are ongoing and there are already some elements emerging.

For example, sensors and pods are developing all the time, so we need to make sure we can make use of all the information a sensor will be able to pick up and make it accessible for the pilot. In addition, lessons will continue to be learnt from operations and exercises. And we will see them shaping future requirements. We don’t sit in a cellar on our own and think about what we could invent next. There’s a permanent dialogue about the future evolution of the weapons system.

There are several elements driving those talks — emerging technologies, emerging scenarios, operational considerations — and all are taken into account. Industry is not in the driving seat because the operational scenarios and requirements obviously lie with the customer community. We as industry are trying to respond with solutions.

How strong are the relationships between Eurofighter and the customer community?

oman first

Oman first Typhoon delivery

They are excellent. In practical terms we have established integrated teams on dedicated tasks where we try to work together on a process to ensure we get things right first time, rather than industry going through a process that is later reviewed by the nations. We develop things together which avoids misunderstandings, and by getting it right we save on a review cycle and get to the end result much quicker.

We also have the benefit of the national strategies for the Eurofighter asset that are now well formulated. The whole team has a clear view of what the future needs to be for the platform. In addition, the relationship between NETMA and Eurofighter has been strengthened by the decision to co-locate in Hallbergmoos in Germany. We are already seeing the benefits of this proximity because it allows far more interaction between the various specialists – even on a very simple basis like walking the corridors together.

How do you see Eurofighter GmbH playing its part in the future?

For me the company’s role is clear. We have a number of key roles to fulfil. First, Eurofighter is the prime contractor in front of NETMA for the core programme. Second, we are the key enabling body for programme integration and therefore for all development, production and in-service aspects - we are clearly the integrator. Third, Eurofighter has to play a central role in the qualifications and certifications because we have a growing number of different configurations.

We now have a tool in our hands which can help the different core nations gain maximum benefit.

This central role is where Eurofighter adds value. Thanks to the new European Military Airworthiness Requirements 21 (EMAR 21) we now have a tool in our hands which can help the different core nations gain maximum benefit. Fourth, Eurofighter will have a strong sub-contracting capability and we will be the key enabler of the future capability road map. In this hugely complex programme we need to maintain a common base-line.

And finally, the International Weapon System Support Centre (IWSSC) is a central element of service support because it is the only institution where all nations that operate the Eurofighter speak regularly to each other and exchange their views.

So you believe that the Eurofighter consortium is still very much at the heart of things?

Certainly. Eurofighter was kicked off on the basis of four nations coming together and depends on funding streams coming out of the four nations. But when you put these funding streams together you have far more opportunities to introduce new capabilities than if you were only working on a national basis.

As money is not unlimited, there is good economic sense in trying to develop the aircraft together and going in a common direction. Of course, within that construct there is room for some national preferences – every nation has the right to use the platform in a specialised manner if they have a requirement. However, there needs to be a common core if just for the sake of certification and qualification.

As the CEO of Eurofighter what is your focus for the future?

Volker Paltzo

Eurofighter CEO, Volker Paltzo

My focus is to ensure the Eurofighter platform remains as attractive as possible for core and export nations to put additional capabilities on the aircraft. My vision for Eurofighter is that we keep customers happy for the next two decades both in terms of reliability and the capabilities we bring forward and deliver.

We also need to keep them happy in terms of speed – by this I mean how we can adapt to new operational requirements, deliver a capability and get it ready for use by the customer. The mission for Eurofighter GmbH is clearly to manage this integrated programme effectively to the highest standard of programme management.

I often say that this is probably the most complex machine that European engineers have ever designed and it needs to be kept operational and supported. My mission for Eurofighter is to enable this integrated programme to be managed as effectively and professionally as possible. It’s a mission that will keep the company very busy. 

It sounds simple but it is a tremendous effort and we have to do a lot of things to maintain a level of professionalism. Our leadership team has identified 10 Top Targets for the current year and we have a very clear focus of what we need to deliver.

What are your targets in 2016 as the new Eurofighter CEO?

In 2016, we aim to achieve a number of challenging targets which are primarily focused on customers and capabilities.

Among these targets are: to achieve Block 25 Type Acceptance and related production aircraft deliveries; to progress the capability programmes P2E (Storm Shadow and Meteor) and P3E (Brimstone) and the E-Scan radar integration; to secure the benefits of the EMAR 21; and to enhance also the In-Service Support (ISS) to core and export customers. These targets will keep us quite busy but I am sure that the Eurofighter team will manage to achieve them.

Q. How would you describe your leadership style?

I’d say I am a strategic thinker but also a pragmatic person and consider myself as being a team player. As far as Eurofighter is concerned, I consider myself as an integrator. You have to manage a lot of people who bring lots of different views, so you have to be somewhat of a diplomat.

We have a wonderful product, wonderful people and a wonderful environment.

As CEO you must have the ability to convince your people that the programme is going in the right direction. You also have to give the team the motivation and confidence that what we are doing makes sense. I also believe that work should be fun as well. I don’t want a team that comes to work every day stressed thinking ‘oh my gosh’. We have a wonderful product, wonderful people and a wonderful environment. All this should motivate us to work hard and also have fun.