FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - A contract to develop an advanced form of radar for the four nation-backed Eurofighter Typhoon jet should be signed later this year, Eurofighter's CEO said, raising hopes that the fighter could secure further orders.
Radar issues contributed to the Eurofighter consortium losing out on a $20 billion deal to sell 126 jets to India in 2012 and experts have said that equipping the new radar system to the fighters would help sell more of them.
The consortium of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, have funded the initial development of the advanced radar, called E-scan, but a new contract is needed to ready the product so it can start to be fitted onto the fighter jets.
"We are extremely confident that this is going to be more or less before year end," Eurofighter chief executive Alberto Gutierrez said of the contract at a press conference at the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday.
The contract would take the E-Scan radar to full development, Gutierrez said, adding that it would precede further contracts from the four nations to buy the product.
Typhoon, which is produced by BAE Systems, Airbus and Finmeccanica, has to date received orders from Saudi Arabia and Oman but suffered a major blow last year when United Arab Emirates quit talks over a possible 6 billion pound order.
With its extended range, faster tracking and multiple targeting, the new radar could be on jets in frontline use within two years.
E-scan radar has been developed by the Euroradar group, on which Selex, the defence electronics unit of Italy's Finmeccanica, is a major contractor.
Britain has already signalled its intention to back the project, awarding BAE Systems a 72 million pound ($123 million) contract to test and derisk the E-scan radar development for its fleet of Typhoons.
The contract formed part of the 300 million pounds set aside by the UK government to fund existing programmes from its 1.1 billion investment in defence announced on Monday.
Compared with M-scan, or mechanically scanning radars that have to physically move to detect objects, E-scan or electronically scanning radars are fixed and tend to operate much faster as they can move their beams electronically.
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds)
Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter