Eurofighter Typhoon: Europe’s world-beating fast jet
Eurofighter Typhoon T.1
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a single-seat, twin-engine fighter aircraft in service with several air forces. It was designed by a consortium of European aircraft manufacturers operating through a holding company, Eurofighter GmbH; the same consortium is now producing the aircraft. The main contractors are BAe Systems, EADS and Alenia Aeronautica.
Development of the Eurofighter Typhoon began in 1983 as a joint project between Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain. France initially considered taking part, but later withdrew. The first prototype flew in 1994 and the first production aircraft was delivered to the Luftwaffe in 2003. The Typhoon, in both single-seat operational and two-seat operational/trainer versions, is now in service with all the original project members; the Royal Air Force, Spanish Air Force, Italian Air Force and (under the name Eurofighter) the German Luftwaffe. It has also been exported to Austria and Saudi Arabia and Oman has placed an order. Other potential customers include Qatar, Malaysia, Greece, Denmark, Norway and the UAE. In late 2012 Canada began looking at the Eurofighter as a possible alternative to the F-35 due to the spiralling costs of the new design.
The Typhoon is a delta-wing aircraft with forward canards to give increased agility. Its computerised flight control system allows the airframe to be extremely unstable, making it a very manoeuvrable design. The thrust to weight ratio with a full air to air weapons load is 1.07, allowing the Typhoon to climb vertically. It has an advanced cockpit design and very sophisticated avionics; no other aircraft currently in service can match it electronically, and this will remain the case until the F-35 Lightning II enters service.
Compared with the F-22A Raptor the Eurofighter Typhoon is not a stealth design, but it does have a reduced radar signature when compared to older fighters. The F-22A has a slight edge in speed, but the Typhoon can carry a larger weapon load for ground attack missions. Both aircraft are extremely agile. The only person to have flown both, US Air Force General John P. Jumper, believes they are “running neck and neck.” The Typhoon substantially out-performs the F-35 in speed and agility, although the F-35 (which is much less stealthy than the F-22A) still has an advantage in radar observability and avionics. However the Typhoon is much easier and cheaper to maintain than a stealth aircraft, and has a higher availability rate.
The initial batches of Eurofighter Typhoons were capable of air to air combat only. Later batches added increasing levels of multi-role capability and the newest Tranche 3 aircraft are fully multi-role. Older aircraft are being upgraded to Tranche 3 standard as they enter the refit cycle.
The standard air to air armament of the Typhoon is four AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air to air missiles and two AIM-132 ASRAAM short-range missiles. AIM-9X or IRIS-T can be carried in place of ASRAAM and in the future the AMRAAM will be replaced with the MBDA Meteor. Increased numbers of AAMs can be carried if necessary.
At present the main ground attack armament is Paveway III laser-guided bombs and CRV7 unguided rockets; Paveways were dropped on Libyan targets by RAF Typhoons in 2011. Work is ongoing to integrate a large number of other weapons including HARM, Penguin, Maverick and Brimstone missiles, Storm Shadow cruise missiles and Paveway IV and JDAM bombs. The Typhoon also carries a 27mm Mauser revolver cannon that can be used against both air and ground targets.
Despite its long development history the Eurofighter Typhoon is a world-leading aircraft, second only to the F-22A. Even when the F-35 enters service it will remain one of the world’s top three fighter aircraft, and due to its lower costs it is likely to be a lot more widely used than either of the US stealth designs.