New Beginnings for the Eurofighter Typhoon

 - December 24, 2019, 10:29 AM
Leonardo showed a Kuwaiti delegation this Eurofighter during a recent visit to the Turin-Caselle test center and assembly line. It is armed with six MBDA Marte ER anti-ship missiles. (Photo: Eurofighter)

On December 23 Eurofighter Instrumented Series Production Aircraft (ISPA) 6 made its first flight from the Leonardo Aircraft Division flight test center at Turin-Caselle. ISPA 6 is the first Eurofighter in the planned export configuration for the Kuwait Air Force, with the second iteration of the Phase 3 Enhancement software (P3EB) and fitted with the new Captor E-Scan radar (known as Radar One Plus, or Captor E Mk0), an active electronically scanned array (AESA) derivative of Typhoon’s highly regarded Captor radar. The manufacturer claimed, “This standard is the most advanced variant of the fighter jet ever made, with a package of capabilities that builds effectively on existing enhancement programs.”

Other test aircraft have been testing specific elements of the new export standard in different Eurofighter partner companies. BAE Systems’ Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 5 and Airbus Defence and Space’s IPA 8 have been flying with production-standard AESA radars for some time, operating from Warton and Manching, respectively, while IPA 4 has been flying with Mk 80-series bombs in Spain.

However, the inaugural flight of ISPA 6 marked the first flight of the entire package that will be delivered to Kuwait and marked a key milestone on the journey towards Eurofighter’s entry into service in the Gulf nation. Kuwait ordered 28 aircraft in April 2016.

When the Kuwaiti Typhoons enter service, they will have the E-scan radar (EIS standard), a Lockheed Martin Sniper laser designator pod capability including downlink; the DRS-Cubic P5 ACMI combat training pod (providing real-time training for A-A gunnery, IRIS-T, and AMRAAM C7); Mk 82, 83, and 84 ballistic bombs; a medium-range missile capability using the AIM-120 AMRAAM (up to AIM-120C7); and a Meteor Initial Capability (Training). The aircraft will also have VOR navigation capability.

Full operational capability will include an upgraded E-scan radar, Enhanced Sniper full-range capability, a P5 ACMI pod enhancement, GBU-31 JDAM Precision Guided Bombs, and full Meteor capability.

With the flight of ISPA 6, a new era is beginning for the Eurofighter Typhoon even as production of the aircraft to meet the requirements of the original four partner nations is drawing to a close. The Royal Air Force received its final Tranche 3A Typhoon (ZK439, BS155) from the BAE Systems Warton production line on September 27, the last of 159 aircraft delivered to the Royal Air Force. The Warton final assembly line will also be responsible for the 24 Typhoons ordered by Qatar, and there are still hopes of an order for 48 more aircraft from Saudi Arabia.

In Spain, the final C.16 Eurofighter (SS058, C.16-78, 10235, 14-36) has been delivered, the last of 72 Spanish aircraft (58 single-seaters and 14 two-seaters). The last German Eurofighter EF2000 (31+53, GS113) was delivered from the Manching line on December 17, 2019, the last of 143 Eurofighters for the Luftwaffe, at least for now. (The Typhoon name is not used officially in Germany or Spain). The final Italian F-2000, (MM7356, IS082), was due to make its first flight before the end of 2019, and the Italian assembly line will also produce the 28 aircraft for Kuwait.

Though notional final deliveries for Germany and Spain have now taken place, further production for Germany seems likely. The German government and Airbus Defence and Space have launched the Quadriga project to replace the Luftwaffe’s 31 Tranche 1 aircraft with seven new-build two-seat Eurofighters and 26 or even 31 single-seaters. The Eurofighter is also the front-runner to meet the Luftwaffe’s 85-aircraft requirement for a Tornado replacement. These would be split between two batches, 45 aircraft with strategic capabilities, and 40 to meet the Luftgestützte Wirkung im Elektromagnetischen Spektrum requirement with an electronic attack and escort jammer capability. Spain might also select the Eurofighter to meet its requirement for an F/A-18 Hornet replacement.