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14 July 2016

FIA2016: Eurofighter capability enhancement update

At Farnborough 2016, Eurofighter and its partner companies provided a detailed update on the various strands of its update programmes for the TYPHOON, focusing on the trials taking place for radar and weapons.

Full integration of the E-SCAN radar has come a step closer with the successful completion of ground tests, which were carried out on a UK TYPHOON, Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 5. The results, which the company describes as achieving “detection and tracking of airborne targets at significant range,” have paved the way for flight testing, which has now begun at Warton. IPA 5 conducted a one hour test flight on 8 July and a second aircraft (IPA 8, based in Germany) is about to join the integration programme.

The trials programme is aimed at ensuring required capability levels for both radar and weapons systems in time for initial deliveries to Kuwait, TYPHOON’s eighth customer nation with 28 aircraft on order. Over the next three years the radar and weapons systems will be incrementally enhanced to reach the Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) standard required for that delivery to begin.

“The TYPHOON CAPTOR-E provides significantly more power than most competing system [and] combined with the fighter’s large nose aperture and the ability to move the radar antenna, the TYPHOON has a field of view of 200 degrees….the flight tests will show the discriminating advantages this will bring,” said Andrew Cowdery, Chairman of Euroradar.

On the weapons front, the MBDA BRIMSTONE precision strike missile has successfully completed an initial series of flight trials ahead of a live fire event from a TYPHOON next year. BRIMSTONE integration work moves TYPHOON closer to the P2E (which includes the MBDA STORM SHADOW cruise missile) and P3E standards, which will bring supplementary long range precision strike to the aircraft.

Additional firing trials have also been completed for the MBDA METEOR Beyond Visual Range AAM (BVRAAM). Completed in June using IPA 2 at the UK Hebrides range, the trials were aimed at expanding the weapon’s clearance envelope to validate the estimated results provided by modelling and simulation exercises.

Paul Smith, BAE Systems’ Aircrew Advisor, pointed to the combination of trials as part of the continued expansion of the aircraft’s capability. “We are continuing to significantly improve capability across the board and [the BRIMSTONE trials] lie at the heart of our air combat capability,” he said.

The companies gave examples of the way in which TYPHOON’s capability has been proven in operational conditions in recent months, especially in the Baltic Air Policing mission, in which operational tempo has increased considerably as tensions in Europe refuse to ease.

Although the focus at Farnborough was on the weapons and radar enhancements, additional ongoing programmes aimed at ensuring the avionics continue to bring advanced capability, lethality and survivability  to TYPHOON operators are just as crucial: especially work aimed at improving the defensive aids sub-system DASS. Flight tests of the LITENING IV targeting pod will commence next year, Smith indicated.

Of the total of 599 TYPHOONs currently on order, 483 have now been delivered, according to Smith, which have logged some 350,000 flight hours in service with 22 operational units.