The UK Royal Air Force has begun an operational evaluation of upgrades to its Eurofighter Typhoon, which will ultimately enable it to take over the ground-attack role currently performed by the Panavia Tornado GR4.

Following a trial installation phase, the Typhoon has now begun its operational evaluation of the Phase 1 Enhancements Further Work (P1Eb FW) with 41(R) Sqn at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, under the UK’s Project Centurion.

The P1Eb FW enhancements include additional human-machine interface integration and increased air-to-surface targeting capabilities for in-service tranche 2 aircraft, which will contribute to its future ground-attack role.

The P1Eb standard Typhoon entered service with the RAF in 2015, introducing a full “swing-role” mission capability that enables pilots to conduct both air-to-air and air-to-surface tasks in a single sortie.

“The integration of P1Eb FW is an important and necessary incremental step towards Phase 2 Enhancements [P2E] for the aircraft,” says Flt Lt Luke Gili-Ross of 41 Sqn. “On the surface, P1Eb Further Work appears to deliver quite small improvements, but for the operator they may be significant in terms of the aircraft’s continued effectiveness.”

P1Eb FW is the first phase of Project Centurion, which will eventually lead to a P2E-standard Typhoon, allowing it to take over from the Tornado by the end of 2018.

Under P2E, initial integration of MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air and Storm Shadow stand-off air-to-surface missiles will be carried out.

A follow-on P3E configuration upgrade will provide full integration of these weapons, and will introduce MBDA’s Brimstone 2 air-to-surface missile.

Typhoon P3E - BAE Systems

Typhoon's P3E configuration

BAE Systems

Meanwhile, four Typhoons flown by 2 (AC) Sqn pilots based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland arrived at the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s (JASDF) Misawa air base on 22 October.

The aircraft will participate in Guardian North 16, which is the first bilateral exercise to take place in Japan between the JASDF and a foreign nation other than the USA, the UK Ministry of Defence says. They will fly alongside JASDF aircraft including the Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ and F-2 fighters.

In addition to the Typhoons, an RAF Airbus Defence & Space Voyager tanker has deployed to escort the fighters from Malaysia, together with a Boeing C-17 transport carrying engineering equipment.