Eurofighter is now making rapid progress towards achieving an air-to-ground capability on the Typhoon – a capability whose absence was believed to be behind the type’s rejection from Singapore’s fighter competition last year.
When the Typhoon was dropped from the shortlist, the Singaporean ministry of defence said: “The committed schedule for the delivery of the Typhoon and its systems did not meet the requirements of the RSAF.”
The Singaporeans were reportedly concerned about delivery timescales and by the inability of the Eurofighter partner nations to finally define the Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 Typhoon specifications and capability packages. Singapore wanted a delivery timescale that could ‘just about have been met with Tranche 1 aircraft’, but required Tranche 2 capabilities that were “road-mapped”, but which were still unfunded.
Even the interim, basic “austere” air-to-ground capability (using the Litening 3 laser designator and enhanced Paveway laser-guided bombs) being developed for the last UK Royal Air Force aircraft in Tranche 1, and which fell far short of the capability required by the RSAF had not been fully funded by the time Typhoon was rejected in Singapore.
With more than two-thirds of the flight-test programme completed, the four-nation Eurofighter Typhoon has now entered the final stages of the main development programme. The testing of the Phase 4 flight-control system software (giving full carefree handling in all air-defence configurations) is almost finished, and will be cleared for use in the Block 2B standard aircraft.
Phase 5 software (giving carefree handling in the air-to-ground role) has now started testing and validation on six aircraft, across all four partner nations, while full operational capability avionics functionality is now being flight tested. The main focus will be the testing of the Typhoon pilot’s helmet.
BAE Systems’ development aircraft DA2, the oldest Typhoon now flying, and the only aircraft to be flown with an anti-spin gantry to prevent the aircraft from departure in extreme flight manoeuvres, will be a mainstay of the Phase 5 effort. The aircraft will conduct carefree and low-speed handling tests, and will fly with asymmetric loads this spring. Also at Warton, instrumented production aircraft (IPA1) will undertake flutter and vibration testing, envelope expansion and jettison/release testing with the UK Paveway II 1,000lb laser-guided bomb starting this month. IPA5 will be used for carefree handling, low altitude and transonic testing.
At Manching, EADS Military Air Systems will use IPA3 for underwing load tests with the full air-to-air warload and up to four Paveway II and external fuel tanks. With Alenia Finmeccanica, DA3 will undertake performance testing and will jettison air-to-ground weapons in the middle of this year.
In Spain EADS Casa’s IPA4 will be used for GBU-16 Paveway II 1,000lb LGB clearances. Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) tests with the GBU-16 laser guided bomb have been concluded, and IPA4 will be used for flutter and vibration testing, pit drops and actual separation of GBU-16 throughout this summer.
When these tests are completed, the final operational clearances specified in the main development contract will be available, and the Block 5 aircraft delivered in early 2007 will be to this standard.
Eurofighter’s disappointment in Singapore was balanced on 21 December 2005 – when it was announced that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UK had signed a defence agreement that included the supply of Eurofighter Typhoons to replace Tornado ADVs and other types in service with the Royal Saudi Air Force, forming a third phase of the bilateral Al Yamamah arms agreement. Though the details remained unconfirmed, it was soon reported that at least 24 Typhoons would be drawn from the RAF’s allocation of 89 Tranche 2 Eurofighters, replacing the Tornado ADVs. The RAF will receive additional airframes at the end of Tranche 2 production to offset this transfer, resulting in a delay to RAF deliveries, but no change to RAF numbers. Flight Daily News understands that Saudi Arabia will actually receive 72 Typhoons, which will replace some RSAF Northrop F-5s and Boeing F-15s, and that there may even be an eventual requirement for as many as 200 aircraft.