Multi-role functionality has been a long time coming for the Eurofighter Typhoon. But the four-nation industrial consortium building the combat jet says the Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) package that is now entering service represents a “paradigm shift” in capability.
The commander of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon force, Air Cmdr. Gary Waterfall, said the new package allows the RAF to drop 500-pound Paveway IV “smart” bombs “at the moment of our choosing, on targets of our choosing, with a multitude of fuse settings, impact angles and arrivals.”
Laurie Hilditch, Eurofighter GmbH future capabilities manager, added, “The operator may want to use all six Paveway IVs during an attack mission–to hit a bomb dump, air traffic control [ATC], hangars and vehicles all in one pass. If the pilot receives a ‘launch acceptable region’ instruction in the cockpit advising him the targets are in range, one bomb could go straight down the chimney of the bomb-dump; the ATC can be hit with another bomb at a certain angle; and the radar taken out with an air burst.”
The P1E package also includes integration of the 2,000-pound EGBU-16 Paveway II bomb, has adjustable fuse settings for the bombs after takeoff and includes functional enhancements to the Litening II laser designator pod. The package also incorporates a complete revision of the human-machine interface (HMI) for better pilot situational awareness, based on experience gained by the RAF during Operation Unified Protector over Libya in 2011.
The package is being introduced in two stages: P1Ea is now certified and was introduced on Tranche 2 RAF Typhoons in late 2013. Meanwhile, for P1Eb, flight tests have been completed and it will enter service in the next 6 to 12 months.
A separate set of improvements, known as Evolution Package 2 (EP2), was contracted by the four Eurofighter partner nations last October. They include an upgrade to the Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS), interoperability updates to the Multifunction and Distribution Systems (MIDS) and modifications to the jet’s current Captor-M radar to allow firing of theMBDA Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM).
At a briefing during the ILA Berlin Airshow in May, two former RAF fighter pilots described the potency of the Meteor/Typhoon combination. Paul Smith, capability manager, Eurofighter, said the jet’s thrust-to-weight ratio provides the energy needed to give the Meteor “maximum throw.” Russ Martin, air weapons advisor, MBDA, said the Meteor has “stunning kinematics…unlike other missiles, it doesn’t decelerate after the boost phase. It turns most of its fuel into energy at the target intercept phase. This gives a very large no-escape zone–three times the size of other BVRAAMs,” he claimed. The Eurofighter can carry six Meteors, plus two short-range infrared-guided AAMs.
At the same briefing, Smith and Martin also looked forward to the integration of two more MBDA air-surface weapons on the Eurofighter. The Storm Shadow standoff missile “can penetrate highly defended targets,” said Smith. “The stealth is in the weapon, which minimizes the risk to pilot and aircraft,” he added. “It’s very effective against C3I, airfields, SAMs, bunkers, bridges and industrial targets,” he added.
Martin also described how the Brimstone weapon, with its dual-mode seeker (millimeter wave and semi-active laser), reduces pilot workload while increasing the likelihood of striking moving targets. Using only MMW guidance, “the pilot could launch six against a swarm of static and moving vehicles with only one button-push,” said Martin, while he added, “We’ve perfected the algorithms.”
Despite the promises, the partner nations have not yet given Eurofighter a contract for the integration of the Storm Shadow or Brimstone weapons. They form part of the proposed Phase 2 Enhancements (P2E) package. More details may emerge during the Farnborough Airshow this week but, in the meantime, the consortium is believed to be using its own money, plus funding from Saudi Arabia, to move forward with the Storm Shadow integration. The weapon has flown on a Eurofighter in Italy and another Eurofighter has now flown about 18 times from Manching with the equivalent German weapon, the KEPD-350 Taurus.
At the same time, contract award is still under consideration for the E-scan version of the Captor radar, despite Eurofighter’s best efforts to persuade the partner nations that this is essential for the export market. However, one instrumented production aircraft (IPA5) has now received the structural and systems modifications needed for E-Scan radar testing by BAE Systems in the UK. At Manching, meanwhile, Airbus Defence and Space is preparing IPA8 to fly by the end of the year with the necessary modifications.
Meanwhile, the first five Typhoons from the Tranche 3 production order are now flying at BAE’s Warton facility. They have provisions for the E-Scan radar, conformal fuel tanks and other envisaged improvements. But the RAF is in no rush to receive them. Air Cmdr. Waterfall explained, “These ‘future-proofed’ aircraft may be coming off the production line, but I want to protect them so that we can reach the projected out-of-service date, which is not until 2030.”
There is increasing speculation the RAF Tranche 3s will be flown into storage at RAF Scampton for the time being.