Eurofighter Typhoon Path Becoming Clear
The path to a fully multi-role Eurofighter Typhoon is finally becoming clear. At a media briefing here tomorrow (Wednesday), the company hopes to announce the first test flight in Italy of an aircraft carrying the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The jet’s full operational clearance to drop smart bombs came recently. Meanwhile one of the prototypes will fly next spring with the Selex AESA radar.
Neither the Storm Shadow nor the AESA radar is yet under contract. There have been media reports that Saudi Arabian money is funding these integrations. Laurie Hilditch, Eurofighter capability manager, told AIN here Monday that these were being funded by industry. However, the four European partner nations for Eurofighter have agreed the scope of “evolution packages” (EPs) that add such capability. The EP2 package was recently signed, for delivery by the end of 2015. It contains various avionics and other upgrades, including modifications to the jet’s current Captor-M radar to allow firing of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM.
Hilditch said that the program “was trying to make intelligent choices about weapons integration–the choices and sequence.” The Storm Shadow integration will likely form part of the Phase 2B Enhancement Package (P2E-B) for delivery by 2017. The equivalent German weapon–the KEPD 350 Taurus–will also soon fly on a test aircraft (IPA7 in Germany) “because the aerodynamics read across to the Storm Shadow clearance.”
Dubai Show Mock-up
While a Royal Air Force Typhoon flies in the aerial display here in Dubai, the full-scale model of the Eurofighter on the static display line is sporting conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) for the first time. These are being proposed to export customers, rather than the four European partners, although the latest-production Tranche 3 jets for Germany, Italy, Spain and UK do make structural provision for their carriage. According to Hilditch, the CFTs provide weapons carriage flexibility as well as longer range in air-surface missions. “Our preferred long-range attack configuration is two Storm Shadows, one on each center-wing pylon, plus CFTs and a supersonic fuel tank on the centerline. That allows us to retain the full air-to-air missile set for the swing role.”
A Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pod is displayed below the full-scale model here. Hilditch said that fourth-generation pods like this can be integrated as part of P2E. The four partner nations chose the Israeli Litening pod, so the alternative Thales Damocles pod was integrated as part of the Al-Salam contract for the Royal Saudi Air Force. Of note, the Royal Saudi Air Force already flies the Sniper pod.
A model of the Selex E-scan (AESA) radar with its moving, wide-field-of-view antenna can be found in the Eurofighter display building outside the main hall. Debate rages between rival radar houses about the pros and cons of repositioning AESA arrays, but Hilditch said, “We’ve done a lot of work on the e-scan proposal.” Eurofighter is planning to fly two jets with the E-scan radar, the single-seat IPA5 and the twin-seat IPA8. “The E-scan radar will be available to the market when our current and potential customers need it,” the company said.
Eurofighter has made only passing reference to the electronic attack (EA) possibilities that are an inherent capability of AESA radars. The UK is known to be funding research into the waveforms required for EA under the Bright Adder program. This capability would likely be added as part of a Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) package sometime after 2017.
P3E could also include anti-ship missiles (AShMs), which are likely to be required by current and future export customers. At the last Dubai Airshow, Eurofighter displayed a Marte AShM, but the Saab Rbs15 was in the offer that Eurofighter made to the Indian air force. Hilditch said that the customers could decide which AShMs they prefer.