The UK has demonstrated the so-called austere weapons capability of its Eurofighter Typhoon strike aircraft, with the successful release of a Raytheon Paveway II laser-guided bomb having taken place using a frontline Royal Air Force aircraft earlier this month.
A vital stepping stone in an ongoing campaign to prepare the Typhoon for combat operations in Afghanistan from mid-2008, the 15 November trial involved two aircraft, with one designating a barge target in Qinetiq's Aberporth test range off the west Wales coast, and the other releasing the precision-guided weapon. The combined test team achieved a direct hit, according to the MoD.
Both images © Crown Copyright
Flown by a BAE Systems test pilot, the release aircraft was drawn from the RAF's 11 Sqn based at Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The single-seat Typhoon F2 carried two of the 454kg (1,000lb) weapons from its under-wing weapons stations, with an external fuel tank on its centreline stores station, which will be used operationally to carry the Rafael Litening III targeting pod, being integrated with the UK aircraft by Ultra Electronics. The second Typhoon - two-seater BT005 operated by BAE - carried one of the pods for the trial (pictured below).
© BAE Systems
The RAF's 17 Sqn operational evaluation unit conducted a first Paveway release over the Aberporth range during October, with the trials aircraft carrying a maximum load of six Paveway weapons. Further testing will take place early next year before the initial multirole capability receives clearance.
The UK funded accelerated integration of the Litening III with its last batch of Tranche 1 Typhoons in a move to transition the type from its originally planned air superiority role into a multirole combat aircraft.