Eurofighter Continues Progress in Expanding Its Weapons Portfolio


2016-03-26 Eurofighter is expanding its weapons portfolio, in part to subsume key strike functions of the Tornado as it gets retired.

A key missile in this effort is the addition of the Brimstone missile to the Eurofighter missile repertoire.

Progress is being made in adding Brimstone to the strike package, and given Brimstone’s performance in the Middle East, that is a good thing. Brimstone has demonstrated its capability as a premier close proximity strike weapon against multiple targets.

According to a Eurofighter press release earlier this week:

A series of successful ground rig trials with the air-to-surface MBDA Brimstone missile have been completed at BAE Systems Military Air & Information site in Warton, Lancashire. The trials are part of the integration of the weapon on to the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet.

A Brimstone weapon, consisting of a launcher loaded with three missiles, was connected to an avionics systems integration ground rig to test the communication between the launcher and software.

The test was designed to ensure there was successful communication between the real weapon and the Typhoon aircraft. The activity follows successful completion of avionics design activity and the start of informal testing on the initial software in the rig.

Minister for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne said:

“I am delighted that the ground rig trials have been successfully completed as we progress towards integrating these precision strike weapons onto our Typhoon aircraft. Brimstone offers laser-guided precision technology which will boost Typhoon’s capability and it is currently proving its worth in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

“These trials are another example of how the Ministry of Defence is investing its £178 billion over the next ten years in providing state of the art equipment for the Armed Forces.”

The trials, supported by MBDA, Eurofighter and the Eurofighter partner companies, are part of the test campaign for the Phase 3 Enhancements’ (P3E) package, which will introduce a low collateral precision strike air-to-surface capability to Typhoon through Brimstone.

The trials program is vital to collect feedback on performance and ensure a mature product enters flight test activities before entry into service.

Paul Ascroft, Technical Manager for Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) package on Typhoon at BAE Systems, said:

“The ground rig trials are a key milestone in the integration of the Brimstone weapon on to Typhoon and we are delighted they have been successful. While testing of the software will largely be performed using a Brimstone simulator, it is vital to ensure that there is successful communication between the weapon and the aircraft.”

The ongoing trials are running alongside a flight test campaign for the Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) package, which brings a range of new and improved long range attack capabilities to the aircraft through MBDA’s Storm Shadow deep strike missile and MBDA Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile.

These trials also form important maturity points for the UK Ministry of Defence’s Project CENTURION which will ensure that Typhoon is able to provide the continuous delivery of key combat air capabilities as Tornado moves towards its out of service date in 2019.

Weapons integration activity for Typhoon as part of the Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) package and initial testing of the Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) package is scheduled to continue in 2016. Flight tests on the Brimstone missile are due to take place later this year.

And last month, in a Eurofighter press release dated February 11, 2016, progress on integration of the storm shadow strike missile and the meteor air-to-air missile was highlighted as well.

Further trials of the Storm Shadow deep strike missile and Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile have been successfully completed as part of a program of improvements which will further enhance the powerful swing-role capability of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet.

It has been confirmed that a new operational release of the Storm Shadow missile was carried out in the UK Ministry of Defence’s Hebrides range in Scotland. The release – from the Italian Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 2 – is part of work conducted to expand the safe weapon trajectory data envelope of the missile. The test, which was led by Finmeccanica – Aircraft Division, with the support of Eurofighter, BAE Systems, Airbus Defence and Space, and MBDA, follows the completion of ground trials on the weapon and a successful release of Storm Shadow in November 2015.

F-2000 Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) of 4° Stormo (4th Wing), Grosseto, Italy with a pair of GBU-16 Paveway IIs and LITENING pod on ingress to the NTTR during Red Flag 16-2.
F-2000 Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) of 4° Stormo (4th Wing), Grosseto, Italy with a pair of GBU-16 Paveway IIs and LITENING pod on ingress to the NTTR during Red Flag 16-2. Credit: Todd Miller

It was followed by another firing of a Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile using UK Typhoon aircraft IPA6, also at the Hebrides range. Led by BAE Systems with support from MBDA, Selex, QinetiQ and UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Eurofighter teams. The firing follows trials held in late 2015 which saw the Typhoon aircraft conduct guided Meteor firings against real air targets in pre-planned scenarios.

The Storm Shadow and Meteor firings are part of the flight test campaign for the Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) program which will introduce a range of new and improved long range attack capabilities to Typhoon.

Commenting on the Storm Shadow tests, Enrico Scarabotto, the Italian Chief Test pilot who flew the IPA2, said: “The integration of the weapon further enhances Typhoon’s potent multi-role and swing-role capabilities, adding new capability to strike in day or night, in all-weather conditions. Storm Shadow adds attack stand-off capability to Typhoon which now really accomplishes every possible role in the combat scenario. The aircraft retains excellent performance in an incredible low pilot workload cockpit environment, essential for a single seat multirole aircraft.” 

Steve Greenbank, Director of Aircraft Programmes for Military Air & Information, BAE Systems, said: “These latest Meteor firing trials are another step forward in the integration of the missile onto the Typhoon aircraft, demonstrating they can operate safely, accurately and effectively.

“2015 was a hugely exciting 12 months for Typhoon, with contracts placed for new capabilities and enhancements.

The integration of Meteor further enhance the aircraft’s abilities to ensure Typhoon maintains its position as the most capable, agile and enduring swing role fighter in the international market. These trials also form important maturity points for the UKs Project CENTURION plan, which will see Typhoon provide the continuous delivery of key combat air capabilities as Tornado moves towards its out-of-service date.”

In addition to Meteor and Storm Shadow, the integration of MBDA’s Brimstone, part of the Phase 3 Enhancements (P3E) program, is on contract for Eurofighter Typhoon. Brimstone is a precision attack missile with proven capabilities against both static and moving/manoeuvring targets.

In an interview last year, Lars Joergensen from Eurofighter explained the Eurofighter approach to combining upgrades in the expanded weapons portfolio with the Tranche 3 package.

Question: With regard to weapons, obviously the coming of your AESA radar will facilitate change in interaction with weapons as well?

How would describe this change?

Lars Joergensen: Our current mechanically scanned radar has proven very good for the air to air mission.

With the AESA you have much more flexibility, and part of that flexibility will be to work with weapons differently in particular as a data facilitator.

The first new weapon were this will become very clear is Meteor where the airplane will interact with the data link on the missile to identify and destroy targets in a fluid air combat space. Other weapons will follow.

Thanks to the Eurofighter’s large nose aperture, combined with the ability to move the AESA antenna, we will be able to fire, guide and communicate with weapons “over the shoulder” so to speak while flying away from the threat, thus significantly enlarging our attack envelope with missiles.

Question: There is a clear interaction among changes in the aircraft, the weapons onboard the aircraft, and with upgrades in the sensor pods.

In a sense you are have a triangular approach to modernization?

Lars Joergensen: 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.

The photos and graphics in the slideshow are credited to Eurofighter and show the integration of storm shadow and meteor with the Eurofighter and then the projected placing of the Brimstone onto the aircraft as well.