UK DEFENCE – RAF TYPHOON COMES OF AGE
By Howard Wheeldon, Senior Strategist at BGC Partners
01 June 11. Fully operational in Libya airspace within 24 hours of leaving the UK Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby have more than proved their worth. The NATO mission in Libya that was soon to be known by NATO forces engaged as Operation Ellamy began on March 21st for the RAF when ten Typhoon and eight Panavia Tornado GR4 aircraft were despatched from RAF Coningsby and RAF Marham respectively to an unused part of the Italian Air Force base of Gioia del Colle. The logistics involved in such an operation are necessarily complicated requiring the formation of 906 EAW (Expeditionary Air Wing) the deployment of two C130J aircraft to provide air transport support from RAF Lyneham, provision of Combat ISTAR support through the utilisation of RAF Waddington based E-3D Sentry and Sentinel aircraft together with the necessary refuelling support for NATO aircraft provided by Brize Norton based Vickers VC10 tanker aircraft.
Air power in terms of military strategy and conflict effectively means achieving superiority over the enemy and total control of the air. Within hours of arriving RAF Typhoon and Tornado GR4 aircraft began patrolling and launching Storm Shadow missiles whilst working alongside French and Canadian air forces in an attempt to achieve complete control of the air. Meanwhile both the US Navy and the Royal Navy were busy launching Tomahawk cruise missiles – the latter from a Trafalgar-class submarine with two frigates close-by in support. While the overall mission was far from complete control of the no-fly-zone around, across and through Libya had been fully established. NATO which later took complete control of the mission had by then established vital control of the air.
The Eurofighter Typhoon which in Royal Air Force parlance is known only as the Typhoon is a truly brilliant aircraft. Having already taken close to twenty years to get to the position of excellence now established and with a total acquisition and through life support cost estimated to be in the region of £37bn much is rightly being expected of the aircraft itself. Having recently visited RAF Coningsby on which base are located three Typhoon Squadrons and spent time looking in detail at the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) force the most advanced synthetic based training available I am comfortable that what we are now establishing in the front line Typhoon Force Structure can and will provide the UK with what has been demanded in terms of new generation fast jet capability. In terms of the RAF the 232 number of aircraft that previous governments had planned to acquire has shrunk to 160. Of these following the planned retirement by 2015 of Tranche 1 Typhoon aircraft the permanent fleet will eventually number just 107 aircraft. At this point I will leave the history except to mention that an important component of the Typhoon program for the UK apart from providing the backbone of future national air defence, supporting UK and NATO forces in conflict abroad and in the provision of hardware protection for dependent territories such as the Falkland Island and which Tranche 2 Typhoon aircraft are already now doing is the export program. Currently some 72 Typhoon aircraft are either delivered to Kingdom or currently in-build for the Saudi Royal Air Force. Typhoon campaigns are also running in other parts of the Middle East, in Japan and recently Typhoon is one of two European designed fast fighter jets that have seen off US competition to be down-selected by the government of India. Defence support to export requires that the RAF provides training and other ongoing support to export customer air forces including the Royal Saudi Air Force. The level of training support provided by the RAF to the RSAF is considerable and as one would expect of the very highest standard. Similarly in Kingdom as I have seen for myself and at Warton the main contractor for the UK/Saud