Warplane performs well in public debut

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CHRIS YEO, director of flight operations for British Aerospace, pushed forward the throttle of the British prototype of the four-nation Eurofighter 2000 and the aircraft lifted off from Warton aerodrome, in Lancashire, yesterday.

The Eurofighter was making its public debut in front of 1,500 guests, including Saudi Arabians, Japanese and Malaysians, to whom British Aerospace and the British government hope to sell at least 400 of the new warplane - a joint British-German-Italian- Spanish project. It behaved exactly as planned, performing surprisingly well given the gusty conditions.

The Eurofighter is expected to enter production in 1996 and to be in service in 2000.

In the RAF it will replace the Jaguar reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft and the Tornado F3 air defence fighter, thus performing all the jobs done by combat aircraft at present taking part in operation Deny Flight over Bosnia.

RAF sources said it could even be armed with both air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons - something which the RAF has not widely practised hitherto.

The public debut of Eurofighter yesterday was a relief to the RAF, which sees in the new aircraft a fighting machine capable of meeting any conceivable threat in the first quarter of the 21st century.

The flight was also a relief to the British aerospace industry because, if the project continues on course, it will guarantee 20,000 jobs directly and a further 20,000 related jobs. So far the MoD has spent pounds 5.5bn on developing Eurofighter, which has gone about pounds 500m over budget.

(Photograph omitted)