Final assembly of the first batch of Eurofighter Typhoons for Kuwait was formally launched in a ceremony at Turin-Caselle on October 15. The Italian final assembly line was bedecked with Kuwaiti and Italian flags for the closed event, with a backdrop provided by the fuselage of the first Kuwaiti two-seater (KT001) in an assembly jig, waiting for its tailfin to be fitted.
Leonardo said that the final assembly of the first five aircraft is now underway at the company’s Aircraft Division plant at Turin, while major components of further Kuwaiti aircraft are in production across the four partner nations. This will lead to aircraft deliveries from 2020 to 2023 and the Typhoon will enter Kuwait Air Force service in September 2020.
The Kuwait Air Force is undertaking a major modernization and expansion of its fighter arm, replacing 39 F/A-18C/Ds with 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 28 Typhoons, meaning that induction of the new aircraft will have to be accompanied by an influx of new personnel, including both pilots and groundcrew, while the "Heritage Hornet" pilots and groundcrew will also need to undergo some retraining.
On October 14 it was announced that the first batch of Kuwaiti aircraft maintenance technicians for the Typhoon had started their academic training at the Accademia Aeronautica (the Italian air force academy) at Caserta near Naples.
The first seven Kuwaiti Typhoon pilots graduated from their AMI (Aeronautica Militare Italiana, Italian air force) flying training courses on July 5. The experienced Kuwaiti pilots had undertaken some training with the AMI's Eurofighter F-2000 operational conversion unit (the 4° Stormo’s 20° Gruppo) at Grosseto, but the graduation ceremony was held at Lecce/Galatina, home to the M346-equipped International Flying School/61° Stormo. The ceremony was attended by the Commander of the Kuwait Air Force, air vice-marshal Adnan Al-Fadhli, who revealed that the AMI training had included specific instruction in commanding Eurofighter Typhoon squadrons and had encompassed maneuvers in Oman and Egypt. These officers will now instruct other Kuwaiti pilots.
Kuwaiti interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon emerged in 2012 when a pair of Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoons from the 4° Stormo was deployed to Kuwait for evaluation. Despite very high ambient temperatures (53° C), and high winds (40 mph), the Typhoon reportedly impressed, and in April 2016 Kuwait signed an $8.7 billion contract with Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) for the supply of 28 aircraft (including six two-seat trainers), with an associated training, logistics, and operational support package, including equipment and a suite of training devices to allow the establishment of an operational conversion unit in Kuwait. The contract also included the construction of infrastructure at the Al-Salem Air Base and a three-year package of initial support services (with an option for a further five years). Kuwait thereby became the eighth customer for the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Kuwait’s 28 aircraft will be the most advanced examples of the Eurofighter Typhoon produced so far, and the first delivered to the new P3Eb standard. P3Eb provides a package of capabilities that build upon the Typhoon’s previous enhancement programs, using the functional content of P3Ea as what Leonardo calls “a starting technical development baseline.”
P3Eb will be delivered in two phases. The KAF entry into service (EIS) standard includes the new E-scan radar (with an EIS capability), AIM-120 AMRAAM (up to C7), and a Meteor initial training capability, ballistic bombs (Mk 82, 83, and 84), the Sniper laser designator pod with downlink, the P5 ACMI pod (providing real-time training for air-to-air gunnery, IRIS-T, and AMRAAM C7), and VOR navigation capability.
Later, the KAF Enhanced standard will be introduced. This will introduce an upgraded E-scan radar, Meteor full capability, GBU-31 JDAM precision-guided bombs, Enhanced Sniper (full-range capability), and a P5 ACMI Pod Enhancement. The radar used by Kuwaiti Typhoons is the Captor-E to Radar One Plus standard. This also forms the basis of the four-nation AESA radar development program, with the same hardware and the same performance. The Captor-E radar provides significantly more power than most competing systems. The advanced antenna repositioner gives the Typhoon radar a field of regard of 200 degrees.
Kuwait’s Typhoons will be the first to use the Lockheed Martin Sniper advanced targeting pod, following the award of a direct commercial sale contract for 18 Sniper advanced targeting pods, together with integration and logistics support on Sept. 28, 2016. The Sniper pod has recently been upgraded to include two-color laser spot tracking, short-wave infrared, and advanced non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance modes.
The Kuwaiti aircraft will be capable of carrying the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile, providing a long-range stand-off capability that the U.S. will not provide with the Super Hornet due to missile technology control regime restrictions. Kuwait’s Typhoons are also due to be equipped to carry DRS-Cubic ACMI P5 combat training pods and will be fitted with an enhanced navigation aid with VOR.
A number of test aircraft have been used to clear the Kuwaiti P3Eb standard, with instrumented series production aircraft (ISPA4 ) and instrumented production aircraft flying with Mk 82 500-pound bombs, Mk 83 1,000-pound bombs, and Mk 84 2,000-pound bombs. On December 23, Leonardo began flying ISPA6 on radar, avionics, and weapons integration test sorties.