The Royal Air Force's debut combat use of the Eurofighter Typhoon over Libya proved the multi-role type's strike performance and operating reliability and also validated the UK's plans to introduce new capabilities, a senior officer said at the show.
Up to 12 Typhoons were deployed to Gioia del Colle air base in Italy at the height of NATO's operation "Unified Protector" from late March, logging a combined 3,000-plus flight hours in over 650 long-range sorties. Despite this, the type achieved a 99% serviceability rate during the detachment.
Operating in mixed formations with RAF Panavia Tornado GR4s, Typhoons initially provided air policing cover, but later progressed to releasing Raytheon Systems Enhanced Paveway II precision-guided bombs against ground targets.
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"We were genuinely swing-role," said Wg Cdr Dicky Patounas, officer commanding the RAF's Typhoon-equipped 3 Sqn. However, he noted that "99% of what we did was watching and monitoring activities on the ground. We were an eye in the sky".
Planned future enhancements for the UK's aircraft will include integrating the lighter weight Paveway IV bomb and MBDA's Storm Shadow cruise missile, plus the latter's Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles. An active electronically scanned array radar is also on the way.
"Libya has enabled us to re-articulate the importance of what we are asking for," Patounas said. "The priorities stay the same."
Meanwhile, another possible weapon option for the Typhoon is on show for the first time at Eurofighter's outside exhibit (static P9). MBDA's developmental Marte ER anti-ship missile is believed to have been offered to India, but could also potentially be of interest to the UAE.