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Historic link of Europe's warplane

THE LONG-awaited Eurofighter was launched yesterday with the same name as a Royal Air Force bomber used during the Second World War.

The combat aircraft - a pounds 40bn joint venture between Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy - was officially unveiled as the Typhoon at the headquarters of British Aerospace at Farnborough in Hampshire.

Although the air forces of the nations behind the project will continue to call the aircraft Eurofighter within Europe, it will be exported under the Typhoon name - which is common to all four languages of the countries behind the venture.

The British government has invested around pounds 15bn in the Eurofighter project which will safeguard 80,000 jobs in the United Kingdom alone. The RAF has ordered 232 Eurofighters and the aircraft will replace the Tornado as a linchpin of the nation's defences. Deliveries to the RAF are due to begin in June 2002.

The partner countries, who are taking 620 of the aircraft, are targeting a global market for more than 800 combat aircraft worth pounds 70bn. They face fierce competition from the American F-16 made by Lockheed Martin.