Farnborough Air Show

Eurofighter Approaching True Potential

 - July 12, 2016, 2:20 PM
The Eurofighter Typhoon is shown here flying in a multirole configuration with Brimstone missiles and Paveway bombs, as well as Meteor and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles.

Development of the Eurofighter Typhoon into a multi-role combat jet has taken a long time. But the aircraft displayed here by BAE Systems test pilot Nat Makepeace shows that this capability is finally nearing. It is carrying six MBDA Brimstone air-to-ground missiles on two three-rail under-wing launchers, plus two Raytheon Paveway IV laser and GPS-guided bombs. In addition, four MBDA Meteor BVRAAMs nestle on under-fuselage stations, and two MBDA ASRAAM shorter-range AAMs occupy the outer pylons.

The Paveways are already operational on UK Royal Air Force Typhoons, having been integrated as a ‘Phase 1 Enhancement’ (P1E). The Meteors form part of a second phase (P2E), which also includes the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The Brimstones are in a third package (P3E). Full operational clearance of the P2E and P3E weapons is still awaited, but should be achieved in 2018. The heavy Storm Shadow presents a particular integration challenge to the deliberately-unstable, aft-cg design of the Typhoon. Until the jet’s control laws are modified, there will be some limitations in the flight envelope. But the first powered release of the missile was accomplished last month, and asymmetric takeoffs, landings and drops have been done.

The UK has driven the integration timetable for air-to-ground weapons on the Typhoon, because the RAF is retiring its Tornado strike jet fleet in 2019. The other Eurofighter partners are retaining Tornados (Germany, Italy) or F-18s (Spain) for this role. The RAF will only have one squadron of F-35s by 2019, and they will not be carrying Brimstones, Meteors or Storm Shadows.

A further enhancement package designated P4E is now being crafted. Depending on what the partner nations can be persuaded to approve, it could include additional weapons; enhancements to the avionics and Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS); passive geolocation; a low-band extension; and aerodynamic enhancements.

Meanwhile, an improved version of the Typhoon pilots’ helmet-mounted display is available, although no funding for its production has been approved. The BAE Systems Striker II has integrated night vision projection, thus dispensing with the need for separate night-vision goggles. It also offers high-resolution color in the display, and a daytime recording capability. BAE claims that this fully digital helmet is more advanced than the one that comes with the F-35.

The Eurofighter program has now delivered 478 of the 599 aircraft on order, and 21 squadrons in six countries have flown over 340,000 hours. Former Eurofighter chief Alberto Gutierrez, now head of combat aircraft for Airbus Defence & Space, claims that the aircraft has achieved a serviceability rate of 99 percent on “real operations”—by which he presumably means RAF missions over Iraq and Syria, and Saudi Arabian missions over Yemen.

Two more customers—Oman (12 on order) and Kuwait (28)—have not yet taken delivery. In 2018, Kuwait will be the first to receive aircraft equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) array, although it was the four European partner nations who finally signed the development contract for this in 2014.

The new chief executive officer of Eurofighter is Volker Paltzo. He told AIN, “We need to ensure that we are organized efficiently, both in terms of our people and processes.” He said that the recent contract with Kuwait “has stimulated fresh energy and additional drive in our program. We see quite a significant potential for further sales.”

Paltzo also said that Eurofighter is “keen to secure the benefits of the European Military Airworthiness Requirements 21 (EMAR 21) which will allow industry to carry out certification work previously done by the Customer.”