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By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
(Washington D.C.) The combat-tested European Typhoon fighter is now being armed and upgraded with new weapons, firepower, targeting technologies, radar and sensors to ensure its viability for future war, according to a recently posted image on the Eurofighter Typhoon website.
The image shows what may be yet another upgrade to the fighter jet, as it is shows a “Beast Mode” configuration with 14 Meteor Beyond Visual Range weapons and two Infrared Imaging System Tail-Thrust Vector Controlled short-range air-to-air missiles, along with an external fuel tank for extended missions.
The Typhoon fighter, a versatile supersonic aircraft now operated by the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, has been in service in 2003.
In recent years, the Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role aircraft has been equipped with a new precision-guided, stealthy long-range cruise missileand an active electronically scanned array radar system, company officials told me at the Farnborough International Air Show several years ago.
The Typhoon has also been armed with the high-tech Storm Shadow missile, currently configured onto the Royal Air Force’s Tornado aircraft. Built by design with a smooth stealthy exterior, the Storm Shadow weighs about 1,300 kilos and uses a multi-mode precision guidance system including GPS, inertial navigation systems and terrain reference technology, Paul Smith, former UK Royal Air Force pilot, Typhoon operational test pilot and Fighter Weapons School Instructor, told me at Farnborough in 2014.
In service since 2003, the Storm Shadow’s first use in combat came during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was also fired against hardened targets during NATO military action in Libya in 2011. Smith said the weapon has a 200-km range and was used to destroy Saddam Hussein’s bunkers at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The weapon was reportedly so accurate that it fired two missiles through the same hole in a bunker. The Storm Shadow uses a BROACH warhead, which features an initial penetrating charge to clear soil or enter a bunker, then a variable delay fuze to control detonation of the main warhead.
Operating as a defense industry conglomerate involving BAE Systems, Airbus Defense and Space and Alenia Finmeccanica, Eurofighter made an acquisition deal with European Missile-maker MBDA to integrate the Storm Shadow missile onto the Typhoon.
The Typhoon enhancements have also included the addition of a short-range stand-off missile called Brimstone II, a precision-guided weapon that has also been in service on the British Tornado aircraft. Originally designed as a tank-killer weapon, Brimstone II is engineered with an all-weather, highly-precise millimeter wave seeker, Smith said. In Afghanistan many years ago, a Brimstone was used to destroy an Al Qaeda terrorist on a motorcycle traveling at 60km per hour.
Overall, the aircraft previously had 13 hardpoints for dedicated air-to-air missiles, some of which can be configured to drop bombs such as JDAMS. Smith elaborated that the GPS and laser-guided bombs carried by the Typhoon include 2,000, 1,000 and 500 pound GBUs and the Paveway IV, a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.
Many countries likely plan to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon well into future decades, due to a high number of ongoing upgrades. The fast-moving attack fighter jet, which seems to align strategically and in configuration with U.S. F-15s and F-16s to an extent, entered service in 2003 and it only about 15 years ago. Nevertheless, many participating Typhoon countries, which include Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, the U.K., Saudi Arabia and Oman, have embraced a handful of weapons upgrades intended to propel the fighter into future decades.
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This not only makes sense but also parallels key U.S. efforts to sustain and upgrade the operational functionality and effectiveness of some of its combat tested platforms such as the F-15 and F-16. These two U.S. fighters have been upgraded so much they could almost be described as being new planes, given that they have new weapons, radar, computing, avionics and advanced sensors which dramatically improve performance.
For example the Eurofighter has in recent years been flight testing a European missile called Meteor which greatly increases what pilots refer to as the “no-escape range” – the distance or point at which anair-to-air adversaryhas no ability to fly away from or “escape” an approaching missile, Smith said.
Smith also said the Typhoons air-to-air capability and overall performance is massively increased by what he referred to as the aircraft’s “thrust to weight ratio.” Defined as the weight of the engine compared to the amount of thrust the engine generates, the thrust to weight ratio is a key indicator of speed, maneuverability and aircraft performance.
The Typhoon can travel at Mach 2, and the Typhoon engines’ thrust to weight ratio is 9.3 to 1, making it the best in the world, Smith said. Smith said the Typhoon has a thrust-to-weight ratio comparable to the F-22 Raptor. This is accomplished in part by power emanating from the two Eurojet 2000 engines on board the aircraft and the light weight of the aircraft. The Typhoon is built with 70-percent carbon fibercomposite and is therefore said to be fast and very agile.
Prior software upgrades have enabled the Typhoon to operate with what’s called swing-roll capability, the technical capacity to perform several missions simultaneously such as fire missiles and drop bombs, Smith explained.
The Typhoon’s new active electronically scanned array radar, or AESA, will provide pilots with an expanded field ofview comparedto the existing radar system. The AESA provides a mechanical ability to rapidly reposition the receiver to increase the area it can pick up signals, Smith said.
The new radar is designed to work with other on-board sensors such as forward-looking infrared sensors and passive infrared tracking technology to locate stealth aircraft with a low radar cross section, he added.
Smith explained that the radar and sensors could combine to help the Typhoon locate aircraft such as the now-developing Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft, the Chinese J-20 and Russian Su-57 aircraft.
The sensing technology on board the Typhoon fighter is called Pirate, or passive infrared and targeting equipment, Smith said. It is a combination of infrared search and track and forward-looking infrared sensors.
As for cockpit avionics, the Typhoon has three large LCD displays which the pilot can switch between when assessing mission requirements. Many of the displays include situational awareness information such as moving digital maps, atmospheric information, sensor data and targeting information.
The Typhoon and U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor have participated in joint training exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Smith said.
“The Raptor and Typhoon make a great combination. We work a lot with the U.S. Air Force to make sure our data links are properly integrated – that is key as a force multiplier,” Smith added.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.