Procurement: March 5, 2002


The British are struggling to juggle their air strike capability while changing to a new generation of strike aircraft. The three squadrons of Jaguar GR3 strike aircraft are all scheduled to retire in mid-2008. The first squadron of ground-attack Eurofighter Typhoons is due to be formed in 2008 and will not be operational until mid-2009. Two more squadrons of Typhoons assigned to the fighter-bomber role are scheduled to form in 2010 and be operational in 2011. This would leave the British with a gap in their strike capabilities in the event of any crisis. The plan is to use the three Typhoon fighter squadrons due to be formed in 2005, 2006, and 2007. These will consist of a mix of Typhoon-Tranche-1 aircraft (which can carry only unguided iron bombs) and Typhoon-Tranche-2 aircraft (which have an expanded air-to-ground capability). Some Tranch-2 aircraft will (from 2006) have Enhanced Operations Capability 1 which includes the ability to carry a laser target designator and Britain's yet-to-be-selected new precision-guided bomb. In 2008, Tranche-2 aircraft will receive the Enhanced Operations Capability 2, and will be able to carry the Storm Shadow long-range missile and the Brimstone anti-tank missile (a variant of the US Hellfire). The Typhoon-Tranche-3 (yet to be designed) is to replace the Tornado-GR4 and carry more enhanced weapons. Another option to cover the gap (if Typhoon doesn't progress on schedule) is to keep the Jaguars flying a few years longer. Sixty of these are now receiving new Mk-106 engines at a cost of $149 million. The last of these will be completed in 2005, and all of these aircraft could be kept in service a few years longer.--Stephen V Cole




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