LIBYA: RAF Typhoon drops first bombs in combat

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The UK has given the historic first offensive use to the Eurofighter Typhoon, with a Royal Air Force aircraft having dropped precision-guided bombs on Libyan targets on 12 April.

The Ministry of Defence says the aircraft dropped two Raytheon Enhanced Paveway II 454kg (1,000lb) precision-guided bombs against two main battle tanks being operated by forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi to the south of Misrata. An accompanying Panavia Tornado GR4 destroyed another tank using a Raytheon Systems 226kg Paveway IV.

The event represents "a significant milestone in the delivery of multi-role Typhoon," says chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, who says the attack was conducted "very successfully and very accurately".

While the type currently lacks the wider range of weapons and sensors being employed by the RAF's Tornado GR4s, Dalton told the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace 2011 conference in London that this is "by design and by definition". The Eurofighter's capabilities will be progressively enhanced over the next three to four years for the UK, he adds.

Preparations for the Typhoon's offensive debut began in earnest on 10 April, when several of the aircraft conducted joint sorties over Libya with Tornado GR4s, all launched from Gioia del Colle air base in Italy.

Tornados fired MBDA dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missiles during the missions, hitting two main battle tanks and two surface-to-air missile launchers near Misrata.

Dalton hails the performance of the Tornado force during the UK's Operation Ellamy contribution to NATO's Operation Unified Protector, noting: "It has become the norm for each GR4 to take on four or six targets, each of which has been positively identified." Its key weapons are the Brimstone and Paveway IV.