Christmas has come early at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford with the arrival of the Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) technology demonstrator. This experimental jet helped pave the way for the renowned Eurofighter Typhoon and thanks to support of BAE Systems is now on display to visitors within the Museum’s Test Flight collection.
The EAP, built by BAE Systems predecessor company British Aerospace (BAe), was the most advanced fighter design ever built solely by a UK manufacturer; its purpose being to bring together technologies applicable to future advanced agile aircraft. This twin engine, single seat aircraft of canard delta configuration was designed for close air combat/air superiority and battlefield close air support. EAP incorporated a fly-by-wire control system and featured good supersonic manoeuvrability and a short take-off performance, making it an aircraft way ahead of its time.
During the 1970’s BAe and its predecessors had started studies into a combat aircraft that could replace a number of existing RAF aircraft including the Harrier and the Jaguar. The new aircraft was to be used in a ground attack role but with self defence capability. Originally planned as a partnership between Britain and neighbouring European countries including Germany and Italy, a lack of funding caused them to withdraw from the project and it became entirely funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and the British aviation industry.
EAP was rolled-out at BAe Warton in April 1986 and made its maiden flight in August the same year flown by Test Pilot David (Dave) Eagles, BAe’s Executive Director of Flight Operations. During this initial sortie EAP reached Mach 1.1, faster than the speed of sound. After months of testing the aircraft had attained a maximum speed of Mach 2.0 and investigated or proved some 36 technological developments before going on to perform for crowds at airshows. Four more years of trialling the latest technologies followed before the aircraft conducted its last flight in May 1991, having flown 259 sorties totalling 195.21 flying hours. EAP was capable of attaining speeds in excess of Mach 2 and could fly at angles of attack of over 35 degrees in controlled flight, exceptional even by today’s standards.
The aircraft then spent almost 16 years on display at Loughborough University in the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, being used for undergraduate student design appreciation exercises.
After being transported by road to the RAF Museum Cosford in March 2012, EAP remained in storage until late Summer 2013 when it was moved in the Museum’s award winning Michael Beetham Conservation Centre. Following a small amount of conservation work the aircraft has now been placed on display for Museum visitors to enjoy.
Nick Sturgess, Alex Henshaw Curator at RAF Museum Cosford said:
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have the EAP joining our Research and Development Aircraft Collection. Only one EAP was ever built and its importance in aviation cannot be understated. During its flying career as a proof of concept demonstrator (circa 1986-1991) it contributed much to computer controls, advanced aerodynamics and new methods of construction. Many of the concepts that were pioneered and proved by EAP are now in frontline use in the form of the Eurofighter Typhoon, an aircraft that bares more than a passing resemblance to EAP.”
Chris Boardman, Managing Director at BAE Systems said:
“I am delighted that BAE Systems has been able to donate the Experimental Aircraft Programme aircraft to the RAF Museum at Cosford. The EAP was fundamental in developing many of the ground breaking design characteristics and capabilities that we now see in today’s Eurofighter Typhoon. It is only fitting that it should now reside alongside other historic aircraft including Tornado P.02, the Jaguar ACT Demonstrator and TSR2 that have all helped keep Britain at the forefront of military aviation.”
The Museum is open daily from 10am and admission is free of charge. For more information on the Museum, visit www.rafmuseum.org or call 01902 376200.