Saudi pilots detail Typhoon's progress

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Saudi Arabia has begun mounting quick-reaction alert duties with its Eurofighter Typhoons, two years after accepting the first single-seat examples via its Project Salam acquisition.

The Royal Saudi Air Force’s 3 Sqn has recently started performing the task from Taif air base near Jeddah, according to two of the service’s pilots who accompanied a pair of Typhoons on their delivery flights in early July.

Aircraft numbers 21 and 22 from an initial batch of 24 being assembled at BAE Systems’ Warton site in Lancashire, the UK, the fighters participated in the AirPower ’11 show at Zeltweg air base: the home of the Austrian air force’s 15-strong Typhoon fleet.

 
© Katsuhiko Tokunaga/Eurofighter

On arriving in Saudi Arabia, the aircraft will enter use with 3 Sqn, which is responsible for training and conversion activities with the new type. The unit, which also has six two-seat aircraft, is manned by more than 10 instructors, with around five pilots now receiving instruction at the site.

Around 20 Saudi pilots have already been qualified to fly the Typhoon, with Riyadh planning to establish two more operational squadrons under its 72-aircraft deal. Both will perform air-to-air and air-to-ground tasks. The first of these, 10 Sqn, is receiving pilots and aircraft in the run-up to achieving initial operational capability. Currently stationed at Taif, it will later be moved to a yet-to-be decided location.

Saudi Arabia’s current operational pilots have already been cleared for daylight air-to-air refuelling operations, while night-time trials have been completed and will be certified soon.

Qualification firings have already been performed using the Typhoon’s Mauser 27mm cannon against towed targets, while its aircraft also carry Raytheon AIM-120C5 AMRAAM medium-range and short-range Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles.

Saudi pilots are also expected to receive new helmet-mounted display systems by next year.