Germany’s air force grounded all 55 of its Eurofighter combat jets because of safety concerns over the functioning of the pilot ejector seats.
The Eurofighters, produced by European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., have been grounded since Wednesday and the German Luftwaffe is working closely with industry officials to identify the problem, a Defense Ministry spokesman said in Berlin.
The groundings are a flight-safety issue because the functioning of the ejector seat during an emergency can’t be guaranteed in certain circumstances, the spokesman said.
Eurofighter spokesman Marco Valerio said countries operating military aircraft that have had accidents generally ground planes not being used operationally to allow time for an investigation. He added that they are working with customers to understand the issues and resolve them.
The Eurofighter problem is another setback for the German military’s efforts to enhance its equipment in missions from Afghanistan to Somalia as the government embarks on one the biggest overhauls of the military in the post-World War II era. Steps include reducing the number of soldiers to as few as 170,000 and halting or suspending conscription.
The Eurofighter has the distinction of being the most controversial European combat aircraft since the stillborn TSR.2. Lauded by its proponents and trashed by its opponents, the aircraft seems to have an extraordinary ability to generate public argument. Its strength is its very modern and comprehensive avionic package, especially that in the RAF variant, and its excellent agility when operated around its optimum combat radius of about 300 NMI (a figure to be found in older Eurofighter literature, which has since disappeared with the export drive to compete against the bigger F-15 and F-22).