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Air Platforms

RAF’s Typhoon force prepares to take on Tornado capabilities

28 September 2018
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A Typhoon FGR4, flown by 29 (R) Squadron from RAF Coningsby, pictured in June 2018. The RAF’s Typhoons are preparing to take on the Tornado GR4s' air-to-ground duties. Source: Crown Copyright

Key Points

  • The RAF’s Typhoons are preparing to match the weapon capabilities of the Tornado GR4
  • The last Tornado units are set to be retired in early 2019

The UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) Typhoon force is preparing to take on all of the weapon capabilities of the soon-to-retire Tornado GR4. These are being integrated onto the Typhoon as part of a wide-ranging upgrade known as Project Centurion, which will see a significant expansion of the Typhoon’s air-to-ground capability.

The RAF’s Tranche 1 Typhoons gained a so-called ‘austere air-to-ground’ capability in 2008 using the Enhanced Paveway II dual-mode bomb and Litening 3 laser designator pod: a combination that was used over Libya in 2011. The newer Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 Typhoons gained an advanced air-to-ground capability using the Paveway IV and Litening under the Phase 1 Enhancement (P1EA) in the first quarter of 2013. This has allowed the Typhoon to participate in Operation ‘Shader’ (the UK armed forces’ name for the multinational campaign against the Islamic State), augmenting the Tornado, which can also carry MBDA’s Brimstone ground attack missile and Storm Shadow stand-off cruise missile.

To fully replace the Tornado the RAF decided that its Typhoons would need to carry the same weapons, so these are being integrated under the Phase 2 and Phase 3 Enhancement (P2EA and P3EA) packages, which, in turn, constitute Phase One and Phase Two of Centurion. They have been preceded by a Phase Zero (P1EB, or Phase 1 Enhancement Further Work) that primarily delivered man-machine interface improvements, especially for multirole operations. Phase Zero was delivered in December 2017, officially entered service in January 2018, and is now operational on Operation ‘Shader’.

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