Middle East Customers Funding Eurofighter Upgrades
A briefing on the Eurofighter Typhoon organized by BAE Systems at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford last week provided a further indication that some key upgrades to the combat jet are being funded by Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman. The four original partner nations have proved reluctant to collectively fund in the near term enhancements that extend the aircraft’s air-to-ground capability, such as integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The four partners have also so far failed to approve full development of the Captor-E AESA radar by the Euroradar consortium.
“Storm Shadow will be on the Typhoon sooner than you think,” said Air Vice Marshal Ed Stringer, assistant chief of the air staff, UK Royal Air Force, in response to a query from AIN. “Other Typhoon customers are involved [in providing] funding profiles,” he added. An article in the latest Eurofighter World magazine notes that Saudi Arabia joined the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (Netma) last year to enjoy “increased power in deciding development priorities.”
During a briefing at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, a BAE Systems official said that the Storm Shadow would enter flight-test on the Typhoon this year because this is a requirement of the Royal Saudi Air Force. At last week’s briefing, BAE Systems business development director Peter Anstiss said, “We now have a firmly embedded partnership model.” Stringer added, “Multirole Typhoon is beginning to be taken seriously by air forces around the world.”
Bob Smith, combat air engineering director at BAE Systems, told AIN that the latest batch of Typhoon software enhancements–known as P1E Phase B or Service Release Proposal (SRP) 12–would be completed by the Eurofighter industrial consortium by year-end. They allow Tranche 2 jets to fully employ the Paveway IV and EGBU-16 “smart” bombs, by improving the man-machine interface and adding air-to-ground capability to the helmet-mounted sight and the multifunction information distribution system. P1E Phase B also includes digital Iris-T AAM capability; IFF Mode 5; upgrades to the defensive aids subsystem; and redundancy improvements in the nav/attack system. The earlier P1E Phase A enhancements (also known as SRP 10) are now in operational flight-test by the customer, he added.
Storm Shadow integration forms part of a further round of enhancements that are designated P2E, and not yet fully defined. But these do include integration of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM, a contract for which was signed by the consortium with Netma at the recent Paris Air Show.