FighterSweep Fans, as we mentioned yesterday, the Eurofighter Typhoon is a far cry from what it was in its early days. In this second part, we’re going to explore a few more of the upgrades the aircraft has received in the recent past. The Typhoon now features true “swing-role” capability, and it’s not by accident the aircraft is attracting attention from potential buyers. Remember some of the verbiage cues from part one: a Tranche is akin to a “block” or “lot” of aircraft.

Typhoon has been employing the Litening III targeting pod on Tranche 1 aircraft since 2008. However, as previously discussed, integration onto Tranche 1 aircraft was “austere” and had significant limitations.

Integration onto Tranche 2 at P1E(b) enables several improvements in functionality and HMI. It also integrates the targeting pod with the HMSS and allows it to be used in the A-A arena.

Firstly, the pod can now be utilized while the aircraft is not in an A-S mode, meaning the pilot can simultaneously conduct other cockpit husbandry or A-A war fighting while still employing the pod.

Although this is a minor improvement, it is a good indicator of how P1E(b) is designed to enable to the pilot to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously or seamlessly transition between tasks in the same mission – the very definition of a Swing Role platform.

Swing-Role: Unlocking Typhoon’s Capabilities (2)
An RAF Typhoon from 3 Sqn takes off from JBLE during the Trilateral exercise (photo by Jonathan Derden)

Another significant development with the targeting pod integration is the ability at P1E(b) to accept co-ordinates in the aircraft navigation computer in order to update a waypoint or target position. In Tranche 1, this requires the pilot to write down the target position (as displayed by the pod) on their kneeboard before manually entering it into the navigation computer. This process is timely and can induce error. There are many benefits from this functionality; however, the most noteworthy is the fact that the time from acquiring a target to weapon impact can be significantly reduced in a dynamic environment.

The integration of the HMSS with the targeting pod allows the pilot to visually cue the Line of Sight (LoS) to a point of interest on the ground. The use of this function in a Target of Opportunity (TOO) mode further expedites the building of situational awareness and, ultimately, timely delivery of a weapon in a dynamic environment. The expedited process of target acquisition to weapon delivery from the targeting pod integration at P1E(b) once again increases lethality and survivability.

Link-16 and Avionic Improvements

There are multiple avionic developments at P1E(b) that improve the functionality, integration, and HMI of the aircrafts navigation system, domestic systems (such as fuel and engine management) and HOTAS. Each of these small improvements goes some way to reducing cockpit workload and freeing up capacity for the pilot to execute Swing-Role. The most significant development in the avionics arena is the enhanced Link-16 functionality. Link-16 improvements at P1E(b) allow pilots, for the first time, to pass A-S
targeting information between aircraft. The ability to quickly generate a target position using the targeting pod, send it to another Typhoon using Link-16, and the other aircraft quickly get ‘eyes on’ to the target using the Litening III or HMSS saves several minutes in the dynamic targeting environment, greatly increasing lethality. Survivability is enhanced because Link-16 at P1E(b) enables   Typhoon to see updates to the position of hostile Surface to Air Missile (SAM) sites that are being distributed real time by Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) or Electronic Surveillance platforms.

Swing-Role: Unlocking Typhoon’s Capabilities (2)
A Typhoon rolls out at Nellis Air Force Base following an afternoon mission at Red Flag 15-1. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

What is Typhoon’s Swing Role capability today with Tranche 2?

When you combine the increased survivability, lethality, and systems integration delivered at P1E(b) with the extant A-A capabilities of the aircraft; it is clear that, for the first time, Typhoon is realising its potential as a world  beating Swing-Role platform. This was illustrated at Exercise RED FLAG in January 2015 when 1(Fighter) Squadron executed Swing-Role missions in a highly contested, degraded, and operationally limited (CDO) environment flying P1E(b) aircraft with significant success.

What is the potential of Typhoon’s Swing-Role capability in the future operating environment?

The analysis of potential future operating environments for the UK armed forces is published by UK DCDC (2013) while UK Defence Intelligence assess adversaries capabilities in those potential environments. This allows the RAF to invest in the right capability development to keep Typhoon relevant and potent in any potential future employment. Tranche 1 Typhoon is not forecast to receive any further weapon capability upgrades and will likely become very limited in its capability vs. the threat by the end of the decade. Tranche 2, however, is just beginning its journey in capability development.

P1E has laid the foundation upon which future development will take place. Notably the Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile, Brimstone low collateral anti-armour weapon, and Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air to Air missile (BVRAAM) will all be operational on Tranche 2 Typhoon by 2020. Each of these weapons brings with it further enhancements to the survivability, lethality, and flexibility of Typhoon, increasing its potency and relevance as a Swing-Role platform well into the next decade.

Conclusion

We’ve detailed the development of Typhoon’s Swing-Role capability, focusing on the specific importance of the P1E programme. It argued that although it could be suggested that Tranche 1 Typhoon had a limited Swing-Role capability, it had severe limitations in the Swing-Role environment, and was more akin to a Multi-Role fighter. The paper illustrated how the unlocking of Typhoon’s potential in the Swing-Role arena has come with P1E(b) and the associated capability enhancements, particularly the increased survivability
and lethality afforded to Typhoon in a high threat environment when employing Paveway IV coupled with the Litening III, HMSS, and the extant AA potency of the aircraft.

It also illustrated how, with the imminent declaration of [email protected] on Tranche 2 aircraft, P1E(b) has arguably been the most significant technological development on Typhoon since its introduction into service. It will, no doubt, have far reaching effect on future technological and tactical growth as it provides the foundations on which future Typhoon Swing-Role capability will be developed.

The Paradigm Shift is here.