Air Platforms

BAE Systems begins new round of CFT trials for Typhoon

23 April 2014
Wind tunnel trials of the twin 'shoulder-mounted' blister tanks on the Eurofighter Typhoon have recommenced. Image: BAE Systems

BAE Systems is currently assessing the aerodynamic characteristics of conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, the company announced on 22 April.

Wind tunnel trials of the twin 'shoulder-mounted' blister tanks are now being held to accelerate the clearance processes for their eventual use on the Typhoon.

The CFTs, which can be fitted to any Tranche 2/3 aircraft, can carry 1,500 litres each to increase the Typhoon's combat radius by a factor of 25% to 1,500 n miles (2,778 km).

The CFT fit for the Typhoon is not new, with the concept dating back to at least 1998 and wind tunnel trials known to have already taken place as long ago as 2002. The original plan was that they would form the baseline configuration for the Tranche 3, Batch 5, Block 20 aircraft, along with other enhancements such as an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, high-speed datalinks, and additional computing power.

In 2011 BAE Systems offered the CFTs as part of a navalised Typhoon design for the Indian Navy, and in the same year they featured as part of the Typhoon 2020 advanced export concept, along with thrust vectoring, an AESA radar, enhanced defensive-aid decoys and warners, updated autopilot, network capability, satellite communications, advanced targeting pod, and an advanced computer.

A lack of customer interest meant that the CFTs did not progress beyond the mock-up stage. However, the commencement of MBDA Storm Shadow and Taurus KEPD 350 stand-off cruise missile tests in late 2013 have given added impetus to the concept.

Both of these missiles are large and 'boxy' weapon systems that impart a great deal of drag on the host aircraft, reducing range. This is compounded by the fact that their size means they can be carried only on the two underwing pylons that normally accommodate drop tanks.

These performance drawbacks of the Storm Shadow and Taurus should be more than offset by fitting the CFTs.

BAE Systems did not disclose when the latest round of trials might be complete or whether they are being conducted in response to a specific customer requirement.

(348 words)