The UK Royal Air Force’s 17 Sqn Eurofighter Typhoon operational evaluation unit (OEU) has flown the first two of a planned three heavy weapons load trial sorties, as the aircraft moves towards receiving clearance to conduct air-to-ground strike missions from mid-2008.
Photographed exclusively by Aviacom’s Jamie Hunter, the Tranche 1, Block 5 Typhoon F2 is shown carrying six Raytheon Paveway II laser-guided bombs, plus four AIM-120 Amraam and two MBDA Asraam air-to-air missiles during its first trials flight from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire on 24 September.
© Jamie Hunter/Aviacom
“A large focus of the OEU’s work at the moment is geared towards the multirole operational employment date,” says sortie pilot Sqn Ldr Graham Pemberton, referring to an RAF target of 1 July 2008. The current trials activity is using a selection of approximately 450kg (1,000lb) Paveway IIs, including two which have been instrumented as part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s weapons clearance process for the Typhoon.
The 17 Sqn aircraft was airborne after a 2,800ft (850m) take-off roll in full reheat, before climbing to an altitude of 40,000ft using dry power. “With six Paveway IIs and six [air-to-air] missiles, the aircraft was carrying a weapons load equivalent to three legacy platforms,” says Pemberton. “This fit clearly illustrates the impressive nature of the Typhoon’s performance and gives an exciting insight into future operations.”