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Spain finalizes $2.1 billion deal for 20 Eurofighters to replace old F-18s

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WASHINGTON — Spain is set to receive 20 Eurofighter jets to replace a batch of F-18s the country’s air force operates from the Canary Islands, according to Airbus Defence and Space, the largest company of the industry consortium making the aircraft.

The signing of a €2 billion ($2.1 billion) deal at the Berlin Air Show on Thursday is part of a wider Spanish plan to replace its aging fleet of some 70 Boeing-made F-18s. Eurofighter had something of a lock on replacing the oldest of Spain’s U.S.-made planes, stationed on the popular tourist island of Gran Canaria west of Africa, and the government in Madrid cleared the purchase in late 2021.

The Halcon program, as the Spaniards call the acquisition, includes 16 single-seater and four twin-seater jets, all equipped with e-scan radars. With deliveries slated to begin in 2026, the new deal will bring Spain’s Eurofighter fleet to 90, according to Airbus.

The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) represents the four core governments involved in the program: Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. Germany-based Eurofighter GmbH, the vendor, represents the participating industries of the member countries, led by Airbus Defence and Space for Germany and Spain, BAE Systems for the U.K. and Leonardo for Italy.

The deal signed June 23 in Berlin also includes 48 of the jets’ EJ200 power plants, sold by a consortium of leading engine makers from the four program nations, according to a Eurofighter GmbH statement.

Spain’s Eurofighters are assembled at Airbus’ Getafe site just south of Madrid.

“This additional order reinforces Spain’s commitment not only towards the Eurofighter but also to its development and industrial environment,” said Mike Schoellhorn, the chief executive of Airbus Defence and Space.”

Airbus has pitched the modernization of its Eurofighter fleet as a stepping stone toward the eventual Future Combat Air System, or FCAS, a German-French-Spanish program meant to replace the type in Germany and Spain, and the Rafale in France.

That program has been in limbo, however, over industrial leadership claims by France’s Dassault that Airbus executives have said they cannot accept because it would force them to abandon their own key business lines in the field of avionics.

Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.

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