The UK Royal Air Force is to introduce a new training syllabus later this year to prepare its pilots for the demands of operating the Eurofighter Typhoon as a multirole strike aircraft, while the type nears a July target to begin international operations.

Now undergoing validation, the new course will expand on a current air-to-air combat focus by adding air-to-ground skills, plus medium-level close air support and air intercept work. “We are still teaching an air-to-air course, while the frontline blazes on multirole,” says Wg Cdr Jonny Stringer, commanding officer of the RAF's 29 Sqn Typhoon operational conversion unit.

 Typhoon 17
© APG Photography/AirSpace

The RAF’s 11 Sqn should be ready for multirole deployment from mid-year, but fresh doubt has been cast on a target to send the unit to Afghanistan. “At present there are no plans to deploy the Typhoon to theatre,” says Baroness Taylor, minister for defence equipment and support. “We are focused on developing its air-to-ground capabilities to maximise its potential.”

Recent trials conducted by the RAF's 17 Sqn operational evaluation unit have included dropping 453kg (1,000lb) freefall and self-designated Raytheon Paveway II laser-guided bombs (pictured below with 11 Sqn aircraft), and firing the Typhoon’s reactivated Mauser 23mm cannon.

 Typhoon 11 Sqn
© Crown Copyright

The UK has now received 49 of its 55 Tranche 1 Typhoons, and flown more than 17,000h on the type. This includes 9,500h last year, when 29 Sqn graduated 27 limited combat-ready pilots.

Each student currently completes 43 sorties totalling 50 flight hours, but Stringer says this will rise slightly, along with more use of synthetic training devices and classroom teaching. “I do see an increase, but it won’t be much,” he told IQPC's Military Flight Training conference in London late last month.

Stringer says the RAF will gain full training benefit from the Typhoon around 2011, once all of 29 Sqn's instructors have completed frontline tours on the aircraft. "At the moment, knowledge is from within the OCU," he notes.

The RAF will, meanwhile, conduct its first Typhoon qualified weapons instructor course for multirole pilots in January 2009, with this to be the first of its type since the service retired its McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms.