The Typhoon is a highly capable and agile fourth-generation combat aircraft say the Royal Air Force, capable of being deployed for the full spectrum of air operations, including air policing and high-intensity conflict.
The aircraft’s development began in 1983 with the Future European Fighter Aircraft programme, a multinational collaboration among the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Disagreements over design authority and operational requirements led France to leave the consortium to develop the Dassault Rafale independently.
Typhoon first flew in 1994 and entered operational service in 2003. Over 600 of the type have been built for 8 nations. The British Typhoon force currently stands at five frontline squadrons, plus the OCU, while 41(R) Test & Evaluation Squadron (TES) operates a small Typhoon fleet under the Air Warfare Centre.
According to the Royal Air Force, the type has been very busy:
“Having first deployed into combat for Operation Ellamy (over Libya) in 2011, the Typhoon force began an enduring commitment to Operation Shader (Iraq/Syria) in December 2015.
It has also been a regular contributor to the Baltic Air Policing effort under Operation Azotize and most recently bolstered NATO air defence over the Black Sea, deploying four jets to Romania, in addition to the standing commitment of QRA in the UK and Falkland Islands.
Most recently, Typhoons deployed to Estonia for air-land integration training with a British Army battle group.”
The aircraft is armed with an internal 27mm Mauser cannon, plus AIM-120 AMRAAM and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, and Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV precisionguided bombs. Future weapons (those still to be cleared for use on the jet) will include the Meteor air-to-air, and Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.
In the air-to-air role the jet employs the infrared guided Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and radar-guided, beyond visual range Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). These weapons say the RAF, used in conjunction with the jet’s ECR-90 Captor radar and PIRATE electro-optical targeting system, combine with the Typhoon’s superior performance and manoeuvrability to make it a formidable platform.
For ground-attack missions, Typhoon is compatible with the GPS/laser-guided Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV weapons, usually in conjunction with the Litening III targeting pod. Its regular configuration for the armed reconnaissance and CAS roles includes Litening III, Paveway IV and the internal 27mm gun. Paveway IV offers cockpit-programmable impact angle, impact direction and fuse delay features for precisely tailored target effects.
The 27mm gun is ideally suited to providing warning shots or for accurate attacks against targets including light vehicles and personnel.
Typhoon development has continued in carefully executed phases, as was always the intention. This process received additional impetus from Project Centurion, which aims to transfer core Tornado GR4 capability onto Typhoon. Paveway IV has been operational on Tranche 2 Typhoon for sometime, with the completion of Meteor integration next, followed by Storm Shadow and then Brimstone.
Gp Capt John Cunningham, who heads up Project Centurion – the programme to improve the jet’s capabilities for the UK fleet – said recently:
“By the end of 2018 no other aircraft in the world will have all of the Typhoon’s capabilities.
It will have the long-range air-to- air Meteor missile, Brimstone and Storm Shadow which can hit moving targets and underground structures, Paveway IV laser guided bombs, the Litening III targeting pod and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles.
All this will come together by December 2018 making the next year the biggest game changer ever in the development of this aircraft.”
Project Centurion will ensure seamless transition of capability from Tornado to Typhoon by the time Tornado goes out of service in 2019. Currently only the RAF’s three Tornado squadrons can fight with Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles.
These improvements will make Typhoon the backbone of the RAF’s combat air capability. Andy Flynn, BAE Systems’ Centurion and Eurofighter delivery director, said:
“We have had some great days in the office this year with starting the operational evaluation of Meteor and Storm Shadow capabilities and completing the firing campaigns of Brimstone. We have a big year ahead of us that will require us to ensure we make every day count.”