RESHAPING CONCEPTS OF OPERATIONS: EUROFIGHTER, THE F-35, THE UK AND ITALY
Robbin Laird, SLD Info
25 Nov 14. Both the UK and Italy will operate a mixed Eurofighter and F-35 fleet. Both have operated the Tornado, which is reaching the end of its service life. Both will sort through evolutions of the Eurofighter to encompass some of the mission sets for Tornado as the Tornado is retired and as the F-35 comes into the two fleets and provides the next surge for the re-working of air-led combat concepts of operations. A key element of this transformation will be reworking the connectivity among air, sea and ground systems as well as shaping the weaponization approaches of joint and coalition forces. In part, this is a Eurofighter transition whereby the radars are upgraded, and weapons added; in part this is the coming of the F-35 and its impact on reshaping air enabled combat operations. And associated with this will be fundamental changes over time in C2, and the approach to strike operations.
The UK and Italy already fly together in operations through their use of Tornados and Eurofighters and have clearly shared combat learning with regard to the use of these platforms; as the F-35 comes on line this combat learning cycle will continue into the next generation of aircraft, and shaping ways to approach fifth generation warfare.
In effect, the dynamics of change for Italy and the UK will be a function of the intersection of four variables: the evolution of the Eurofighter; the impact of the F-35 and the global fleet of F-35s; changes in weaponization; and evolving C2 for strike and combat operations. There is an inherent possibility that the UK and Italy could provide an important force for synergy in shaping concurrent approaches to evolving concepts of operations. Of course, this depends upon how effective their working relationship is and how effective cross-MOD, and cross-industrial relationships are in leveraging their working relationship. And the two countries can play an important role as well with the European Air Group, the only multinational organization which focuses solely on airpower and its evolution. Recently, the EAG which has been a fundamental element of shaping the European Air Transport Command and the soon to be stood up European Personnel Recovery Centre, has started to look for the Air Chiefs of the seven European Air Forces for whom they work at the integration of 4th and 5th generation aircraft.
Clearly, Italy and the UK can play an important role working through the challenges and the opportunities based on the evolution of Eurofighter while the F-35 is introduced. And both will be operating F-35Bs from sea bases so can lead in shaping an understanding of how sea-based and land-based air can work together to create a significant operational effect as well.
The Reconfiguration of Eurofighter
The twin dynamics of the retirement of the Tornado and the arrival of the
F-35 pose a significant challenge as well as opportunity for both the UK and Italy. And shaping effective responses to this challenge can open prospects of innovation for other Eurofighter users as well.
Although operational needs have kept moving the Tornado retirement date to the right, the scheduled date is 2019 for the RAF. Italy will be a bit further down the road and retire their Tornados with 5 years after the intended RAF retirement date. As one UK Typhoon pilot put it in a recent interview; “There is a clear need to expand the effects of Typhoon operations and here the enhancement of its weapons package will be an important improvement.”
To take up some of this role the Eurofighter is being reconfigured to provide an enhanced capability for the ground attack role, over and above the austere level of Enhanced Paveway II integration that was used by the RAF during the Libya campaign. Paveway 4 is being integrated in P1E and then further weapon capability, primarily from MBDA, is being integrated, some of