Expanded Royal Air Force operations with the Eurofighter Typhoon are on track to cover the retirement of its last Panavia Tornado GR4s in March 2019, while the service's long-term strike ambitions could be laid out in a new Combat Air strategy as the Farnborough air show starts.
Air Cdre Linc Taylor, assistant chief of staff for capability, combat air, says initial multirole capability enhancements delivered under "Phase 0" of its Project Centurion are now being used during Operation Shader over Iraq and Syria. "That has gone down really well with the force," he said at the Royal International Air Tattoo on 13 July.
A subsequent Phase 1 update – also referred to as P2EA for the wider Eurofighter programme – provides initial capability with the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile and the air-to-air Meteor, along with significant human/machine interface updates. Now in operational service with the RAF's 1 and 6 squadrons, Taylor describes this as "the greatest change in software to the aircraft" during its operational life.
"By the end of the year, P3EA/Phase 2 will complete the Storm Shadow capability, and gives us [MBDA's] Brimstone too," he says. This standard is now in test with the RAF's 41 Sqn, ahead of an operational test and evaluation campaign to start on 10 August.
Meanwhile, Taylor says the UK is expanding the scope of its Babel Fish integration activity between the Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning – a combination he describes as "incredibly potent" – to also incorporate other aircraft types, naval vessels and land infrastructure.
Industry sources indicate that the Combat Air strategy could be published as the Farnborough air show opens on 16 July.