UK airshow goers from the 1980s might remember an early Eurofighter Typhoon lookalike with a Tornado‘s vertical stabilizer. Similarly anyone passing through the University of Loughborough’s engineering department might be surprised to find a prototype fighter plane standing in a corner of a lab amid chairs and desks. Of course, these jets are one and the same – the British Aerospace EAP (Experimental Aircraft Programme).
EAP originated from a 1982 full size replica of an Agile Combat Aircraft (ACA), combining several years of R&D by British Aerospace alongside Italian and German firms. Plans were made to build two technology demonstrators but lack of funding from West Germany meant the second jet never materialised. The sole EAP (ZF524) was built at Warton and first flew in 1986, with a total of £80 million invested by the British government.
The aircraft boasted many innovations, including carbon fibre composites and aluminium lithium alloy. EAP used a modified Tornado tail fin to reduce cost, and despite significant differences, bore a striking resemblance to today’s Eurofighter. Retired in 1991, the EAP is displayed within Loughborough University’s Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering department, and is used to help students get to grips with the components of a modern fighter plane.