Welcome back, FighterSweep fans! For this week’s edition of Milestone Monday, we’re going to take a look at yet another controversial aircraft – imagine that! – but this time one operated by several of our NATO partners and closest allies. The Eurofighter Typhoon is a modern, delta-winged, multirole strike fighter that made its first flight on 27 March 1994.
The end result of multiple attempts at producing a fighter, the jet was first envisioned by multiple European partner nations that shared a common need, much like its swing-wing Panavia Tornado predecessor. Some of the more notable characteristics that were originally planned for the aircraft included short takeoff and landing (STOL) characteristics, as well as the ability to fight beyond visual range (BVR). France, a partner nation in the project, additionally needed the aircraft to operate off their navy’s carriers – a sentiment not shared with the rest of the German/Italian/British consortium.
The French pursued their own development, which resulted in Dassault’s multirole Rafale. The UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain pressed forward and officially founded Eurofighter in 1986, and 8 years later the first development aircraft took to the skies over Germany’s Manching Air Base.
Controversially dubbed the Typhoon, the Eurofighter is a beast of an airplane. The delta shaped wing, combined with the canards on the nose give it an exceptional turn rate, making it a very capable and well-respected BFM machine. In addition to its dogfighting prowess, the Typhoon’s strike capabilities have been continuously upgraded and it can employ a healthy amount of earth-moving hardware.
At the end of 2014, the Royal Air Force began dropping Paveway IV precision-guided munitions from their Typhoons, and recently offered up some of said iron to the Nevada desert during their Red Flag deployment just two months ago. The Royal Saudi Air Force also inherited the Paveway capability, and have recently been carrying out strike missions in their air campaign against ISIS.
The majority of the airframes produced will go to the partner nations of Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. However, Austria has also picked up some Typhoons for themselves and other export customers include Saudi Arabia and more recently the Omani Air Force.
The Typhoon has proven its worth, making its initial combat foray in the skies over Libya in 2011. It’s become quite an arrow in NATO’s proverbial quiver, and a great ally to have alongside our warfighters when deployed downrange.