The EF2000 IPA7 testbed in flight (Image © Andreas Zeitler / Airbus Defence and Space)

Enhanced dogfighting capability for Eurofighter Typhoon

The Eurofighter EF2000 / Typhoon multi-role fighter is about to get enhanced dogfighting capability. The announcement of enhancing the agility of the aircraft comes at time when a devastating pilot report has put the manoeuverability of the Typhoons main competitor – the US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 – into a bad light.

“We have successfully completed flight-testing of a package of aerodynamic upgrades to the Eurofighter Typhoon swing-role fighter that promises to enhance further the aircraft’s agility and weapons-carrying ability,” a statement of Airbus Defence and Space released on 15 July 2015 reads. Although the word “dogfight” – meaning close-combat in mid-air – is not mentioned, agility and speed are key to win such a match.

The Aerodynamic Modification Kit (AMK) – as Airbus calls it – is part of a wider Eurofighter Enhanced Manoeuvrability (EFEM) program to improve the German-British-Italian-Spanish aircraft. It entails primarily the addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions, which increase the maximum lift created by the wing by 25 percent – resulting in an increased turn rate, tighter turning radius, and improved nose-pointing ability at low speed – all critical fighter capabilities in air-to-air combat.

A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai participating at the Dubai (UAE) airshow. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)
A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)

Ground attack
Additional weapon options will make the aircraft effective in the ground attack and close-air support role, a task the Eurofighter has not really been up to yet. The Royal Air Force, which is one of the main operators and flies the aircraft as the Typhoon, had to keep aging Tornados in service to be effective in air strikes against the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

Eurofighter Project Pilot Germany Raffaele Beltrame: “This program has very impressive results. We saw angle of attack values around 45 percent greater than on the standard aircraft, and roll rates up to 100 percent higher, all leading to increased agility. The handling qualities appeared to be markedly improved, providing more manoeuvrability, agility and precision while performing tasks representative of in-service operations.”

The flight trials followed some five years of studies. Eurofighter test pilots, joined in the latter stages by operational pilots from Germany, Italy and the UK, completed 36 sorties from Manching, Germany on the IPA7 Instrumented Production Aircraft.

A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)

Lightning II
While the Typhoon is improved on its dogfighting capabilities a leaked report of the other side of the Atlantic has put the future mainstay fighter jet of many air forces in a less positive position. Pilots flying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II seem to have a hard time winning dogfights with older aircraft, like the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon the F-35 is supposed to replace.

According to pilot statements there is a lack of rear-view vision and manoeuvrability in the American jet that has been developed to engage targets stealthy and with missiles from beyond visual range. Let’s hope then for the F-35 jocks they will never end face-to-face in battle with the agile Russian Flanker jets and have to call in Eurofighter Typhoons to save their skin.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger, incl. source information provided by Airbus Defence and Space
Featured image: The EF2000 IPA7 testbed in flight (Image © Andreas Zeitler / Airbus Defence and Space)