Details Emerge on UK’s Tornado-Typhoon Capability Transition

 - November 14, 2016, 9:12 AM
A British Eurofighter Typhoon has been fitted with Storm Shadow missiles on underwing weapons stations, but final integration could still be two years away. (Photo: BAE Systems)

BAE Systems has provided further reassurance that the Eurofighter Typhoons serving with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF)can fully take over the ground-attack and strike roles from the service’s Tornado fleet, which is due to be retired by March 2019. The company is promising “a seamless transition of capability from Tornado to Typhoon by the end of 2018.” But one key RAF Tornado capability is not scheduled for transfer— the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for TORnado (RAPTOR)—even though it is currently providing vital imagery over Iraq and Syria to the coalition partners engaged in Operation Inherent Resolve.

The RAF has named the transfer of capabilities from Tornado to Typhoon as Project Centurion, an effort in three phases. Phase One Enhancement (P1E) of the Typhoon has included the integration of Raytheon Paveway IV laser/GPS-guided bombs. P1E entered service last year, although the BAE statement said that the RAF is now operationally evaluating “further work” to deliver “small improvements” to P1E. This further work “is providing lessons learnt for the forthcoming packages, while achieving the first step on the journey and setting the standard of how the RAF and industry can work effectively together,” said BAE Systems technical manager Paul Ascroft.

Phase Two Enhancements (P2E) include what BAE Systems now describes as “initial integration” of MBDA’s Meteor BVRAAM and Storm Shadow air-to-surface cruise missile. P2E also includes additional human-machine interface (HMI) and availability improvements, according to BAE Systems.

“Final integration” of both weapons is part of P3E, which also includes the MBDA Brimstone 2 close air support weapon. At the Farnborough Airshow last July, BAE Systems flew a Typhoon fitted with Paveway IV, Meteor and Brimstone weapons, but not Storm Shadow. In our report at the show, AIN noted the particular integration challenges for the Typhoon of adding this heavy cruise missile.

The RAPTOR pod is similarly heavy, and is too large to fit on the optimum centerline station of the Typhoon, because of inadequate clearance between the aircraft’s extended undercarriage doors. UTA Aerospace Systems (UTAS) has proposed an adaptation of the Typhoon’s centerline fuel tank to carry a significantly upgraded version of the RAPTOR. UTAS predecessor Goodrich delivered the RAPTOR to the RAF from 2001, and subsequently downsized and sold it as the DB-110 sensor to more than a dozen air forces, mostly for their F-16s.

In the proposed Fast Jet Pod 2 (FJP2) for the Typhoon, UTAS would include the multispectral imagery upgrade that converts the DB-110 to MS-110 configuration, as described by the company to AIN at Farnborough last July. The FJP2 could alternatively house the tactical synthetic aperture radar (TacSAR) that UTAS launched in a joint venture with Leonardo (then Selex Galileo) at the previous Farnborough airshow in 2014.