British Pilots Push Eurofighter Typhoon Upgrades

 - January 25, 2016, 5:21 AM
The complete set of weapons planned for the RAF’s Typhoon fleet are displayed on the full-scale model. From left to right: ASRAAM; Brimstone; Storm Shadow; Paveway and Meteor. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

British Royal Air Force (RAF) test and evaluation pilots have flown a Eurofighter Typhoon equipped with the Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) software and avionics. The service is keen to ensure that the P2E and follow-on P3E phases of development are completed on time by the end of 2018, so that it can withdraw its last three remaining Tornado strike aircraft squadrons in 2018-19. The RAF will not be replacing the Tornado squadrons one-for-one with the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, as was once planned.

“By 2019, Typhoon will be filling a lot of roles, including air defense of the UK; offensive and defensive counter-air; stand-off attack; and close air support. That’s a lot of skills for a front-line squadron to master. Typhoon needs to deliver all of that capability in a simple, reliable cockpit,” noted Wg. Cdr. Steven Berry, commanding officer of No. 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron. His pilots have provided feedback to BAE Systems and Eurofighter, before the P2E design is frozen, and ahead of actual weapons integration flight tests. The RAF has named the process of developing the jet into a true multirole aircraft Project Centurion.

P2E includes integration of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM and Storm Shadow long-range strike missiles. The MBDA Brimstone dual-mode air-surface missile is added in P3E. According to data released by the UK National Audi Office (NAO) last year, these integrations are costing £108 million ($154 million) for the Meteor, representing the UK’s approximately one-third share; £153 million ($218 million) for the Storm Shadow; and £186 million ($265 million) for the Brimstone. The UK must pay the entire cost for integrating the latter two weapons, since none of the other Eurofighter partner nations intend to acquire them.

The cost of adding the new capabilities, and the time taken to do so, is only half that of previous upgrades, said Chris Boardman, managing director of BAE Systems military air and information systems, at a media briefing in mid-2015. According to the NAO, the UK paid £401 million ($572 million) for the previous P1E package that added the Litening II designator, Paveway laser-guided bombs (LGBs) and other enhancements, such as the Striker 2 helmet. It was declared operational in April 2015 and is now in use over Iraq and Syria as part of the UK’s contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve. In P3E, the number of Paveway LGBs that a Typhoon can carry will be increased to six. The maximum Brimstone carriage will be 12. In both cases, the jet will retain full air-to-air capability.

Neither P2E nor P3E includes the E-scan (AESA) version of the Eurofighter’s Captor radar. The development contract for that upgrade was signed by the four Eurofighter partners in November 2014. Eurofighter officials say the AESA can be added as part of a P4E package that could also include conformal fuel tanks; an upgrade to the aircraft’s Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS); and additional weapons such as JDAM and an anti-ship missile (AShM). A fit-check of the MBDA Marte-ER AShM was done last year