Tag Archives: EF2000

Germany’s top toy on Red Alert

Neuburg Airbase, situated in the Bavarian region in southern Germany, is home to the German Luftwaffe’s JG74, flying the Eurofighter EF2000 (Typhoon) in the air defense role since 2006. This November Airheadsfly.com met them when they returned home to Neuberg after a long stay elsewhere.

For a considerable time, JG74 (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader, or Tactical Air Force Wing) had to call other airbases ‘home’ while the runway at Neuburg saw complete renewal. What was planned to be a nine month stay, turned out to be close to two years. This was caused by a few dozen World War II bombs found during the work.

Lechfeld

During Airheadsfly.com’s visit, the return to Neuburg hadn’t been fully completed, as some Eurofighters – the Typhoon name was never adopted in Germany –  were left behind for maintenance at Lechfeld, the airbase that served as the main home away from home.

QRA

JG74 is fully dedicated to air defense und Alarmrotte, which could well do with some explanation for non-native speakers. Alarmrotte (literally: red alert) is the German term for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), which applies here because JG74 is responsible for guarding the skies over southern Germany. It’s not a recent thing by any standards. In fact, they have been doing it at Neuburg since May 1961. So next year sees the 55th anniversary of QRA duties at the Bavarian airbase.

NATO Tiger

Where now Eurofighters stand guard, F-4 Phantoms stood until not too long ago. Between 2006 and 2008 and after more than 30 years of service, JG74 replaced its Spooks for brand spankin’ new Eurofighters. Since 2013, the wing is a proud member of NATO’s Tiger Association. They took over the tradition from JBG32 (Jagdbombgeschwader, or bomber squadron), which flew the Panavia Tornado from Lechfeld until disbanded in 2012.

Check, check, check. Just a few checks to go, and this JG74 Eurofighter is about to get into the air for another sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Checks, checks and more checks. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
"Hi there!", this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is definitely ready to go (Image © Dennis Spronk)
“Hi there!”, this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is definitely ready to go (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Take off into the blue (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Into the blue yonder. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Arctic Challenge

JG74 has 33 jets assigned, of which 24 are available at Neuburg. This year, the wing’s pilots and crews participated in large scale exercise Arctic Challenge in Norway, but they also did the “real thing” by supporting NATO’s  Baltic Air Policing mission from Ämari airbase in Estonia. From there, German pilots in 2014 got to meet Russian pilots up close, albeit always thousands of feet up in the air and each in the cockpit of their respective aircraft.

A nice summer day? No, it's a beautiful november day as this JG74 Eurofighter taxies to the runway of Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A nice summer day? No, it’s a beautiful November day as this JG74 Eurofighter taxies to the runway of Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of JG74 Eurofighters taxy to the runway to get into the air for another practice sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of JG74 Eurofighters taxy to the runway to get into the air for another practice sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Typical outlines of a Eurofighter, as it approaches at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Typical outlines of a Eurofighter, as it approaches at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Kill ratio

At Neuburg they are pretty confident with the Eurofighter, the jet that saw Germany at it’s cradle as one of the founding nations of the Eurofighter consortium. Christian Härter, taking care of the jets at Neuburg since 2013, thinks the Eurofighter is the best all round fighter at this moment. “The Eurofighter has an 8:1 kill ratio against a variety of other fighter aircraft. Even the US Air Force F-22 Raptor is having a hard time in many aspects against our aircraft.” In reality of course, the Eurofighter has yet to achieve a real kill against any type of aircraft.

Typhoons serviceability

Criticism aimed at Germany’s top toy can’t be ignored. This fall, deliveries of German aircraft were halted over a production fault found across the fleet. According to Härter however, Typhoons serviceability at Neuburg is around 70 percent, the proof perhaps being the presence of three jets inside the T-Halle, a hangar that can house up to 6 aircraft. In the eight year old T-Halle, maintenance is being performed in more favourable conditions than in the hardened aircraft shelters that litter Neuburg. The T-Halle gets a lot of natural light from outside, which makes work very comfortable.

Flight hour costs

The presence of the many data cables and computers in the T-Halle clearly shows we’re dealing with a modern aircraft. As the computer/software is getting more and more important, Härter even expects the Eurofighter could well be the last manned aircraft of the Luftwaffe. One flight hour in a Eurofighter costs around 65,000 euro, of which fuel accounts for ‘only’ 6,000 euro. Therefore it might not come as a surprise that every pilot flies 40 hours  on a Typhoon flight simulator each year. Aircraft like the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 are more and more being marketed as operational trainers, saving costly flying hours.

Christian Härter, Quality Safety Manager of JG74, in front of a Eurofighter (Image © Vincent Kok)
Christian Härter in front of a Eurofighter (Image © Vincent Kok)
3 Eurofighters inside the maintenance hangar (or T-Halle) at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Three Eurofighters inside the maintenance hangar (or T-Halle) at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Just some final checks, and this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is about to leave his aircraft, after a mission (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Work being done between missions in the aircraft shelter.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Roar

But on this beautiful day in November, pilots elect to fly for real. Up to seven Eurofighters roar into the skies in preparation for yet another busy year. For JG74, next year will see participation in the NATO Tiger Meet in May at Zaragoza airbase in Spain, while June will see an airshow at Neuburg because of the 55th anniversary of JG74. There might be even another tour of Baltic Air Policing, offering Russian pilots one more chance at the experience of meeting a Eurofighter up close – and be aware of a kill ratio that apparently stands at 8:1.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk, video shot and edited by Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image (top): Pilots eager to get airborne at Neuburg Airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Ready to taxy to the runway. This JG74 Eurofighter just left its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ready to taxy to the runway. This JG74 Eurofighter just left its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
JG74 ground crew do some final checks before giving the pilot a "go" (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ground crew do some final checks before giving the pilot a “go” (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Touch down! Creating burning rubber, as this JG74 Eurofighter arrives back from the afternoon sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Touch down! Burning rubber as this Eurofighter arrives back from the afternoon sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A JG74 Eurofighter comes out to play (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Return to the shelter. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After the mission, a JG74 Eurofighter is being checked and prepared to be pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After the mission, a jet is being checked and prepared to be pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A JG74 Eurofighter is being pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter, at the end of a beautiful day (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Eurofighter is being pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter, at the end of a beautiful day (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Italian built Eurofighter Typhoons for Kuwait

Kuwait has bilaterally agreed to buy 28 Alenia Aermacchi made Eurofighter Typhoons in a competition that apparently left the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet defeated. The news came to light on Friday 11 September in Italy.

According to press agency Reuters, the deal is worth 7.5 billion EUR and a contract is to be signed within weeks. The deal is very good news for Eurofighter, which had a hard time selling the Typhoon to other nations other than founding partners Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Austria and Saudi Arabia and, in the future, Oman, are the only other nations flying the Typhoon. Eurofighter later on Friday said it ‘welcomes the agreement between Italy and Kuwait for the supply of 28 Eurofighter Typhoons’.

The order reportedly consists of 22 single seat and six two seat aircraft. The Kuwaiti Typhoons are to be manufactured in Alenia Aermacchi’s facility in Turin, where up until now only jets for the Italian Air Force were built, plus left wings for all Typhoons in existence.

Head to head with Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head to head with Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Kuwait Air Force pilots have been getting flight training in Italy for some time, also flying Alenia Aermacchi-made aircraft. At Lecce airbase in southern Italy, the learn basic and advanced fighter jet techniques, using the Alenia Aermacchi MB-339.

For over two decades, Kuwait has been flying the Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet. These aircraft were hastily delivered after the 1991 Gulf War. For Boeing, the Kuwaiti choice could see the end of F/A-18E/F production. The US company was aiming at a Kuwaiti order to keep production going after completing current US and Australian orders.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A brand new Typhoon, produced by Alenia Aermacchi in Turin. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

A Kuwait Air Force F/A-18C Hornet, seen in the UK in 1993 during delivery to Kuwait. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Kuwait Air Force F/A-18C Hornet, seen in the UK in 1993 during delivery to Kuwait. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

NATO’s Baltic Air Policing down to eight aircraft

NATO is cutting down on its Baltic Air Policing involvement. The detachment of four Belgian Air Component F-16s at Malbork Airbase in Poland has already left, leaving the air defence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the hands of only twelve and soon only eight fighters on two in stead of three different airbases.

The diminishing of the air combat force has been acknowledged by the ministries of defence in the Baltic republics.

As of September the Hungarian Air Force will base four of its 12 operational SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen jets on Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania, while the German Air Force will fly four of its Eurofighter EF2000s (Typhoon) from Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

Until a week ago NATO had sixteen fighter jets committed to its Baltic flank, with the Belgian detachment in Poland and Italian Air Force and Royal Air Force EF2000 Typhoons being lead by the Royal Norwegian Air Force with four Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons.

Luftwaffe dual-seat Eurofighter EF2000(T) with serial 30+31 touch-and-go at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen Niedersachsen, Germany. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Luftwaffe dual-seat Eurofighter EF2000(T) (Image © Marcel Burger)

The move to cut the force by 50 percent is controversial and has probably a cost-saving background, as Russian military air activity in the region stays at a decade high. However, Poland retains one of its own MiG-29 Fulcrum air defence fighter units at Malbork, so some back-up is available. NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania don’t have any fighter jets of their own.

The deployment in Lithuania puts an extra strain on the Hungarian Air Force, which had two Gripen crashes lately likely because of mistakes might by their crews. (Check our newstream!)

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Hungarian Air Force (Magyar Légierő) SAAB JAS 39D Gripen taking off during the 2014 NATO Tiger Meet. (Image © Marcel Burger)

Analysis: “RAF to cope with only 60 combat jets”

The Royal Air Force is quietly planning to keep its aging Tornado fighter jets even longer than already envisaged. By 2019 the RAF is set to take its last of 87 operational Panavia variable sweep-wing aircraft out of service, as well as the first version (read: less-capable) of 53 Eurofighter Typhoons. Counting in all other factors the United Kingdom will end up very short-handed with at times only 60 combat jets ready.

Same ocassion, different Tornado. This one is carrying a recce pod. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
RELATED POST: Luftwaffe future plans – beware of our Tornados
With an increasing military threat from Russia as well as other international commitments like fighting the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria (Operation Inherent Resolve), the United Kingdom is in need for a capable combat force more than a decade ago.

Yet the country’s military leadership – as well as military analists – worry how the RAF is able to defend the country and perform its international duties with in theory roughly more than 112 fighter jets by 2020. Since it takes a decade to build up a military force, various RAF planners are trying to find a way to cope with the future, because even that number of 112 does not reflect the coming real-life situation.

In less than five years from now the United Kingdom will have the least number of fighter jets to fly into combat ever, while the need of them has not been as high as since the 1982 Falklands War. With its usual detachment of four Typhoons at RAF Mount Pleasant there and likely a number of aircraft permanently based in the US for pilot training, the RAF will by 2020 in theory have about 100 aircraft “free to use” left. Take out 30 to 50 percent due to maintenance and lack of spare parts and Britain’s hope in dark days is down to about 50 to 60 Eurofighter Typhoons of Trance 2 and 3, which hopefully by then are upgraded enough to fulfill all that is asked from them.

A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 being refueled by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris during Operation Inherent Resolve on 2 February 2015. (Image © Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 being refueled by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris during Operation Inherent Resolve on 2 February 2015. (Image © Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
RAF Typhoon ZJ803 during an earlier training (Image © Marcel Burger)
RAF Typhoon ZJ803 during an earlier training (Image © Marcel Burger)

Those tasks – for a fighter jet designed to patrol the skies and engage enemy aircraft, not ground targets – will include giving air defence to the nation, supporting British ground forces at home and abroad, give future British fighter jocks the necessary training, providing air strike capability to combat ISIS, support fighterless fellow NATO nations as Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with deterrence power and fly air coverage for the Royal Navy ships and vessels.

That maritime coverage will include the US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, unless Britain can get the US Marine Corps to help them out with some fighter coverage. The RAF/Royal Navy’s own 14 Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealthy combat jets to operate from the HMS Queen Elizabeth are not expected to have any limited operational capability until 2021. Airheadsfly.com already reported on this issue in November last year.

Also last year the UK government decided to keep the RAF’s No. 2 Tornado squadron longer on strength, since the country simply lacked the capabilities to bomb ISIS. London might have to do that for more squadrons in the future if it wants to stay feeling safe.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A RAF Tornado GR4 breaking right over RAF Fairford (Image © Marcel Burger)

The first Tranche 3 Typhoon for the RAF airborne. Image released on 11 December 2013 (Image © BAE Systems)
The first Tranche 3 Typhoon for the RAF airborne. Image released on 11 December 2013 (Image © BAE Systems)

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 Airheadsfly.com 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)