4 European Nations Purchase 112 Eurofighters

MUNICH (AP) -- Four European countries signed Friday a euro9 billion ($12.65 billion) deal to build 112 more Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes, a boost for the companies involved in production of the advanced jet.

The German Defense Ministry said the deal, also signed by Spain, Italy and Britain, will see its air force receive 31 of the planes.

"With the continuance of the program, not only will thousands of highly qualified workplaces in the European aeronautics industry be secured until 2015, the export chances for the Eurofighter will also be improved," the ministry said in a statement.

Britain will receive 40 planes, Italy 21 and Spain 20. The overall contract also included the purchase of 241 EJ 200 type jet engines for the plane.

The plane is built by a consortium of European military manufacturers, including Britain's BAE Systems PLC, the German-French EADS NV and Italy's Finmeccanica SpA.

Currently in use by the German, Italian, Spanish, British and Austrian air forces, the plane has had its share of criticism.

The Eurofighter Typhoon program has been dogged by delays and cost overruns. Last month, Britain's government confirmed its commitment to the fighter, easing a political row there.

Critics contend that the Eurofighter program, conceived during the Cold War as a counter to the latest Russian fighters, should no longer be a military priority and is unaffordable in the current economic climate.

Proponents, including Britain's Defense Ministry, counter that the plane has several uses, including air policing, peace support and high intensity conflict.

The aircraft under a new contract would initially be deployed as air-superiority fighters, but would quickly be equipped with precision ground-attack capability, it said.

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