Warplanes: Eurofighter Evolves

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August 9, 2015: In July 2015 flight tests for a new aerodynamic upgrade package for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter were successfully completed. Called the AMK (Aerodynamic Modification Kit) it consists of a few inexpensive yet effective modifications to the airframe, including addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions. All this increases the maximum lift created by the wings by 25 percent. This results in significant improvements in various performance characteristics vital for effective evasive maneuvers and dogfighting, like increased turn rate, tighter turning radius, and improved nose-pointing ability at low speed. This upgrade has potential to turn the already very agile fighter into one of world’s best warplanes for dogfighting.

Regular upgrades like this are necessary to keep a combat aircraft competitive. Development of the Typhoon began in the 1980s and the first flight took place in 1994. Each one costs over $120 million, for just the early variants, including development costs. The Typhoon is a long ranged, twin engine multi-role fighter. It is fast, with maximum speed of 2,495 kilometers an hour, capable of supercruise (flying above the speed of sound without afterburners), very maneuverable, has a range of 2900 kilometers, and carries up to 7.5 tons of weapons or additional fuel on 13 fuselage and wing attachment points. There is also an internal 27mm multi-barrel cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition. This 23 ton aircraft is the main fighter in the air forces of Britain, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Italy, and is also being used by Saudi Arabia, in addition to a 12 plane order from Oman that is going to be delivered in by 2017.

The early models of Typhoon were air superiority fighters with a rather limited selection of weapons and additional equipment. Since entering service in 2003 there have been numerous upgrades gradually turning an already capable fighter into an even better one, improving avionics and defense system and adding ground attack capabilities. This recently led to the ability to use the Meteor active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, and a constantly expanding arsenal of ground attack weapons, including laser and GPS guided bombs like Paveway III and IV. Part of the ground attack upgrades was the ability to use the LITENING III targeting pod.

Other major upgrade planned for near future is an addition of active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, which will ensure that Typhoon’s electronic warfare and beyond visual range combat capabilities also keep up with its competitors. Other planned upgrades include integration with various new weapons, including expanding ground attack capabilities by adding the ability to use very modern cruise missiles like Taurus and Storm Shadow, and the light and compact Brimstone air to surface missile.  --Adam Szczepanik

 


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