Kuwait’s Typhoon Multirole Fighter is Now Flying

 - October 21, 2021, 4:40 AM
Leonardo undertook the first flights of two new Typhoons for Kuwait on the same day at the company's Caselle works airfield. (Photo: Alessandro Maggia)

The first two Eurofighter Typhoons destined for the Kuwait Air Force (KAF) made their inaugural flights on October 15 at Leonardo’s Caselle factory airfield near Turin, in northwest Italy. The two aircraft were both two-seaters—the Kuwaiti order for 28 aircraft will include six two-seat trainers—and were painted in full KAF insignia, with a toned-down air force crest and a full-color Kuwaiti flag on the tail but with Italian experimental serial numbers.

When they enter service KAF Typhoons are going to be the most advanced examples of the type. They will be the first delivered to the new Phase 3 Enhancements Package b (P3Eb) standard, and the first to be equipped with the initial production version of the Captor E AESA radar, now known as the ECRS Mk 0, and previously known as Radar One Plus. The ECRS Mk 0 radar provides significantly more power than competing AESA radar systems, while the advanced antenna repositioner gives a much wider field-of-regard covering the entire forward hemisphere.

The Kuwaiti entry into service (EIS) standard represents the first phase of P3Eb and includes the new E-scan radar (with an EIS level of capability), the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod with downlink, VOR navigation capability, and a P5 ACMI pod (providing real-time training for air-to-air gunnery, IRIS-T, and AMRAAM C7). Weapons will include a range of free-fall bombs (Mk 82, 83, and 84), IRIS-T and AIM-120C7 AMRAAM, and the aircraft will have an initial Meteor long-range missile training capability. This Kuwaiti configuration was developed and tested in Italy using the Typhoon Instrumented Series Production Aircraft (ISPA) 6, which first flew on December 23, 2019.

Subsequently, a KAF Enhanced standard will be introduced, with an upgraded E-scan radar, full Meteor capability, GBU-31 JDAM precision-guided bombs, Enhanced Sniper (full-range capability), and a P5 ACMI Pod Enhancement. The capability package for Kuwait also includes the integration of MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missiles and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles. The Storm Shadow will provide a long-range stand-off capability that the U.S. refuses to provide with the Super Hornet.

Kuwaiti interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon emerged in 2012 when a pair of Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoons from the 4° Stormo squadron was deployed to Kuwait for evaluation. An MoU followed in September 2015 and a $8.7 billion contract for 28 aircraft was signed with Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) in April 2016. This included associated infrastructure at Ali Al-Salem Air Base, training, logistics, 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 after the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia, and Oman and the third customer in the Gulf region. Qatar subsequently signed a $6.8 billion deal for 24 Typhoons, and Saudi Arabia has reportedly reached a provisional agreement for a batch of 48 further Typhoons, at an estimated cost of $13 billion.

The first Kuwaiti Typhoon began final assembly in October 2018, and the first seven Kuwaiti pilots graduated from their Italian Air Force flying training courses on July 5, 2020. Kuwait was originally set to receive its first batch of Eurofighters in the fourth quarter of 2020, and deliveries were due to be completed in 2023. First deliveries will now be made before the end of this year.

The KAF is undertaking a major modernization and expansion of its fighter arm and, as well as taking the Eurofighter Typhoon into service, the KAF will replace 39 F/A-18C/D “legacy” Hornets with 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets (consisting of 22 single-seat F/A-18Es and six two-seat F/A-18Fs).