It's taken a few years, but the multinational Typhoon Eurofighter has reached 500,000 flying hours. On Friday, the Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH confirmed that the multi-role combat aircraft's fleet of 623 airframes passed the half million hour mark thanks to recent deliveries of new aircraft and increased policing and combat operations.

Regarded by its building partners as biggest and most successful defense collaboration program ever undertaken in Europe, the Eurofighter is one of the last 4th generation fighter aircraft to be developed at the end of the Cold War. It began life as the British Aerospace Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) in the 1980s and eventually evolved into a joint project by Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to produce what was, at first, an air superiority fighter, but soon turned into a multi-role aircraft to replace a wide variety of aircraft.

However, the program soon ran into political problems, the shifting of priorities following the fall of Communism and the reunification of Germany, cost overruns, and a prolonged development cycle. This meant that the Eurofighter didn't fly until 1994 and didn't enter actual service until 2003.

Despite the fact that the fighter is gearing up for upgrades like a new electronically scanned array radar, an enhanced human machine interface, and new weapons, many of the ordered aircraft have yet to be delivered and the design is already regarded as obsolescent in the face of new 5th generation aircraft. In the meantime, it remains the main combat aircraft for most major Western European air forces.

"Passing the 500,000 flying hours milestone underscores the fact that today Eurofighter Typhoon is the backbone of NATO's European air defense. Says Volker Paltzo, CEO of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH. "But, looking to future horizons, it will continue to be developed to defend against all threats for decades to come. The aircraft will play a key role in the future battlespace, and will be a central pillar in any future European combat air system, developing and integrating key technologies that will feed in to that future system."

The video below celebrates the 500,000 flying hours milestone.

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