The Next Step in Eurofighter Weaponization: The Storm Shadow Added to Its Strike Capabilities


2015-11-09 Both the British and Italian air forces are retiring their Tornados and handing many of its missions to the Eurofighter.

A key part of that transition is expanding the range of missiles carried by Eurofighter.

In an earlier article, Lars Joergensen explained the modernization approach.

It is clear that a variety of Air Forces are using their sensor pods, including targeting pods, to provide a variety of information and quickly increase capabilities. 

By combing those innovations with weapons innovation and tying them back to the aircraft you can get enhanced combat effect. 

And given that the process of tranche upgrades inevitably will be slower than pod upgrades, this expands the ability to modernize at a more rapid pace than we could do simply through tranche upgrades on the aircraft itself. 

Put another way, the “intelligence” of the weapon system can be described as the sum of the capabilities of the platform, the pod, the weapons and of course the other datalink participants. 

And it is the sum of all these elements that turns you into an effective operational asset. 

As Paul Smith, a former RAAF Typhoon, added particularly in respect of the Storm Shadow on the Eurofighter:

With new sensors and new weapons, we are expanding the weapons envelope to support a broader variety of missions. We are carrying flexible weapon loads to enable us to maintain our air-to-air functions while adding ground attack weapons. We have 6 dedicated AAM stations and currently can simultaneously carry up to 6 PGMs of 500, 1000 or 2000lb class. 

The weapons load-out for such an integrated mission by 2018 will include 4 Paveway IVs, 6 Brimstone 2s, 6 AAMs, with a 27 mm Mauser and two 1000L fuel tanks and one Laser Designator Pod or LDP. This will be further augmented by the integration of SDB II and the introduction of the SPEAR next generation precision surface attack missile. 

And with the ability to carry Storm Shadow or Taurus, the Eurofighter can provide for a deep strike capability as well with 2 standoff missiles and 8 air-to air missiles along with a 27 mm Mauser and 3000L conformal fuel tanks and one Laser Designator Pod or LDP.

With a heavy strike load, your primary focus is not air-to-air but of course you need to be prepared to fight your way out if needed. 

It is not unknown that the air sweep, which precedes a ground attack, may not have removed the entire threat, so having the ability and weapons to fight your way out when needed is useful. 

And the broad notion is really air-to-surface not just air to ground, for we are shaping a modernization strategy for maritime attack as well with both SPEAR and Marte-ER missiles integration work in progress. 

In a press release from Eurofighter dated November 9, 2015, the progress with integration of Storm Shadow on the Eurofighter was highlighted:

A Eurofighter Typhoon Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) has successfully completed a release of the MBDA Storm Shadow, conventionally armed, stealthy, long-range stand-off precision missile. 

This continues the series of trials that Eurofighter Partner Company, Alenia Aermacchi, is leading to demonstrate the full integration of the Storm Shadow missile with Typhoon’s weapon system. With support from Eurofighter Partner Company BAE Systems, missile designer and producer MBDA, and specialist trials support from QinetiQ, the trials were conducted in November 2015 at Aberporth MoD firing range, in the UK. 

Storm Shadow - Take off_Warton (November 2015) Credit: Eurofighter
Storm Shadow – Take off_Warton (November 2015) Credit: Eurofighter

The integration of the missile with the aircraft’s weapon system was successfully demonstrated. The trials also verified the interface of the missile with the weapon system for pre-launch checks, demonstrated post-launch safe separation and the subsequent commencement of missile flight. 

Test pilot Enrico Scarabotto flew the sorties and he said: “The Eurofighter and its weapon system performed exactly as expected. The aircraft’s performance is not significantly degraded by this heavy missile and, thanks to the aircraft’s performance and the large number of weapon stations, after the launch of the missiles the Eurofighter keeps a full spectrum of capabilities for both air-to-air and air-to-surface engagements. This is a great advantage that only the Eurofighter, among western fighters, can guarantee. A truly swing-role combat aircraft.” 

Storm Shadow provides a significant leap in the Eurofighter Typhoon’s operational capabilities, enabling the platform to deploy multiple weapons at a very long range well clear of danger from air defences. Storm Shadow, already in service with the Italian Air Force, Royal Air Force and others, is a long range weapon system designed to neutralise high value, hardened or buried targets. 

The new weapons system will add the capability to strike in day or night in all-weather conditions, well-defended infrastructure targets such as port facilities, control centres, bunkers, missile sites, airfields and bridges that would otherwise require several aircraft and missions. This is a new addition to the Eurofighter Typhoon’s potent simultaneous multi-role/swing-role capabilities. Powered by a turbo-jet engine, with a range in excess of 250 km, the Storm Shadow missile weighs approximately 1.300 kg and is just over 5 metres long. 

The first tests on Storm Shadow integration for the Eurofighter began in December 2013 with IPA2 operated by Alenia Aermacchi. 

Six further flights were then completed in the following weeks to assess the Storm Shadow’s compatibility with the Eurofighter’s Air Data System, and Flutter & Structural Coupling tests were also carried out. A later flight was then performed with baseline configuration for comparative analyses purposes.

The assessment of the Performance & Loads on the aircraft while carrying the missiles was done in March 2014 in a programme known as Extended WIF phase 1.

Five flights were performed with the Storm Shadows installed and a further three with baseline configuration.

Following this testing, IPA7 (Airbus Germany) and IPA4 (Airbus Spain) undertook an intensive campaign of related Aero Data Gathering trials with IPA4 having one and/or two Storm Shadows fitted in order to complete the WIF Flight Test phase of testing. 

In November 2014 inert drop-tests and store jettison trials were accomplished at an Italian test range.

The trials saw the missile being jettisoned from the aircraft and tracked by radar up to impact. In September 2015 two avionic integration flights have been performed in Decimomannu airbase to check the aircraft-missile avionic interface. 

The Meteor missile is in the process of being integrated onto the Eurofighter as well and will be a key part of building out the capability of the Tranche 3 aircraft, as it adds the new AESA radar.

For a Special Report on Eurofighter, see the following: