PARIS: RAF Typhoon pilots share Libya experiences

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Eurofighter is using the show to highlight the combat-proven credentials of its multi-role Typhoon, after three months' involvement over Libya.

Typhoons from the UK's Royal Air Force have been involved in NATO's operation Unified Protector campaign for the past three months, flying from Gioia del Colle air base in Italy.

Initially involved in enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone, its aircraft have more recently taken the fight to pro-Gaddafi forces. For this, they carry four Raytheon Enhanced Paveway II GPS/laser-guided bombs, a Rafael Litening III targeting pod, and air-to-air missiles.

The RAF has used mixed pairs of one Typhoon and one Panavia Tornado GR4 during operations in Libya. The Tornado's navigator has assisted the Typhoon pilot with laser targeting when required, although the use of GPS has been preferred in many cases.

Typical offensive sorties require a roughly 1h transit to reach the Libyan coast, and on average last for 5.5h, with three air-to-air refuellings.

"The aircraft has been great in terms of availability," Sqn Ldr Rupert Joel, 11 Sqn executive officer and one of the first Typhoon pilots to have seen combat action over Libya, said at the show. Each aircraft is flying 84h per month in Libya, roughly four times the rate recorded back in the UK.

The unit's pilots will return to the UK next week, with 3 Sqn to take over the commitment until September, if required.

The 11 Sqn pilots have logged a combined 1,500h, with Joel describing the missions as "exciting and challenging".

"Employing multi-role Typhoon was an easy thing to do," Joel said. "It has worked out really well for us."

Italian air force Eurofighters have also surpassed 1,000 flying hours during the Libya campaign.

Earlier this year, the Typhoon was named as one of the final two candidates for the Indian air force's medium multi-role combat aircraft deal. Worth more than $10 billion, this will provide the service with 126 fighters. Competition comes from the Dassault Rafale, which is also currently involved in the coalition campaign to protect Libyan civilians.