Nov 28, 2017 | By Benedict

Defense giant BAE Systems and lifting specialist Asco Industries have signed an agreement to collaborate on additive manufacturing technology as part of the UK government-backed Eurofighter Typhoon offer, which could replace Belgium’s fleet of 54 F-16 aircraft.

Since making public its decision to replace 54 of its aging F-16 aircraft earlier this year, the European country of Belgium has been fought over by rival bidders looking to become Belgium’s new supplier of fighter jets.

Back in March, Belgium put out a Request for Government Proposals (RfGP), challenging interested parties to put forward a tempting proposal for a new fleet of jets. The contenders included the Boeing Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Lockheed F-35, and Saab Gripen.

Of those four, only the Lockheed F-35 remains a serious contender, but another candidate is the Eurofighter Typhoon, a twin-engine multirole fighter developed by Alenia Aermacchi (Leonardo), Airbus, and BAE Systems. The Eurofigher offer is backed by the British government.

Initially, it was rumoured that the U.S.-made Lockheed F-35 was the clear favourite to become Belgium’s next fighter jet (some even contended that the “competition” was rigged in Lockheed’s favor), but the contest now appears to be wide open, allowing Eurofighter Typhoon to show off its capabilities.

Helping the Eurofighter’s case is a new agreement between BAE and Asco Industries that will see the two companies collaborating on advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies to improve the Typhoon.

The agreement, signed at Asco’s headquarters in Zaventem, Flanders, concerns the exploration of 3D printing, composite materials and processes, and other areas of advanced manufacturing and engineering technology.

What this means for the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in particular is potential new airframe manufacturing processes and assemblies—factors that could eventually sway Belgium’s decision in Eurofighter’s favor.

The signing of the new agreement was overseen by the UK’s Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin MP, who outlined the British Government’s offer to Belgium. The offer is supported by other Eurofighter nations: Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Should the Eurofighter Typhoon offer be selected over the Lockheed F-35, the Eurofighter group would establish two National Innovation Centres in Belgium, a decision that was reached by BAE, Airbus Defence & Space, Leonardo, and MBDA on October 26.

With this latest agreement in place, it seems likely that Asco would become another contributor to these centers, one of which would be in Flanders, the other in Wallonia.

The centers would become a hub for additive manufacturing research, as well as exploration of other advanced manufacturing technologies.

Anthony Gregory, Campaign Director for Belgium at BAE Systems, commented that the “Eurofighter nations and partner companies are fully committed to supporting the Essential Security Interests identified by Belgium, including advanced manufacturing.”

Final offers to the Belgian air force are due by February 2018, with 34 new aircraft expected to be delivered by the winning candidate between 2023 and 2030, at a rate of four or five aircraft per year.

Belgium’s budget for the F-16 replacement program is around 3.573 billion euros ($4.25 billion).



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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