LIBYA: RAF Typhoon hits fresh target, with help from Tornado

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One of the UK Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoons has again been in action against Libyan ground forces, with the type continuing to work in concert with the service's Panavia Tornado GR4 fleet.

The Ministry of Defence confirms that a two-aircraft formation comprising one Typhoon and one Tornado attacked equipment being operated by forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi on 14 April.

 
© Cpl Babbs Robinson/Crown Copyright
Typhoons are now using their Enhanced Paveway II precision-guided bombs in anger

The UK aircraft "hit a heavy equipment transporter and a munitions store in the Misrata area using [Raytheon] Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV bombs," the MoD says in an operational update. Its Tornado GR4s also attacked one main battle tank and one armoured vehicle south of the Libyan capital Tripoli using MBDA dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missiles on the same day.

Flightglobal understands that the Typhoon's latest combat use of the 454kg (1,000lb) Enhanced Paveway II, along with its debut employment in Libya on 10 April, was enabled by a Tornado GR4 designating its targets using a Rafael Litening III targeting pod. Such co-operative targeting has previously been performed by RAF Blackburn Buccaneers for Tornado GR1s during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and by Dassault Mirage 2000s during the French air force's debut combat use of the Dassault Rafale in Afghanistan.

 
© Goose gallery on flightglobal.com/AirSpace
The RAF used Buccaneers to desingate targets for its Tornado GR1s during the 1900-91 Gulf War

The decision to use targeting services provided by the Tornado GR4 stems from a shortage of adequately trained Typhoon pilots, as illustrated in information published by the UK House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee on 15 April.

In evidence given to the committee on 9 March, two senior RAF officials revealed that only a fraction of the service's 48 Typhoon pilots were qualified to conduct air-to-ground missions, in line with its requirements for the fleet.

"We have eight pilots trained in the ground-attack role because that is all we need," said Air Vice Marshal Stephen Hillier, air officer commanding the RAF's 2 Group organisation. However, he added: "If we want to deploy that aircraft on an air-to-surface mission, we can do it." The UK's Typhoon force will achieve full multi-role readiness in 2018, with the bulk of the fleet to remain in use until 2030.

The MoD published fresh images of one of its deployed Typhoons on 18 April showing the 29 Sqn-marked aircraft taking off with its own Litening III pod installed on a centreline station between its main undercarriage doors (below). The sensor's addition suggests that the RAF is working progressively towards being able to self-designate targets in Libya.

 
© Sgt Pete Mobbs/Crown Copyright