Testing of the Eurofighter Typhoon “Phase 2Ea” by the Royal Air Force has begun at Warton in the UK. An aircraft upgraded to the new standard has been flown by pilots of No. 41(R) Test and Evaluation Suadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The test program will likely continue throughout 2016.
The Phase 2Ea upgrades include enhanced software and avionics systems as well as new features added to the radar, defensive aids systems, situational awareness and targeting pods. These enhancements will improve Typhoon’s targeting capabilities particularly in the air-to-ground arena as the 2019 out-of-service date for the Tornado GR.4 creeps ever closer. From 2019 onwards the Typhoon will have to carry the burden of the strike role as well as the air defence role until the F-35 Lightning II becomes fully operational. To that end the RAF has launched Project Centurion which aims to ensure a painless transition between Typhoon and Tornado duties by 2019.
Wing Commander Steven Berry, Officer Commanding of No.41(R) squadron said to the press;
The enhancements mean as an air-to-surface platform, Typhoon has the simplicity and flexibility in the design to be easily employed in close air support missions or more complex scenarios like convoy over-watch.
At a time when relations between London and Moscow are at their frostiest since 1989 the RAF is once again hunting Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers. The MoD stated that yesterday Typhoon FGR.4 fighters were launched from both RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby to intercept and track the roaming Tu-95 which they did for over half an hour before it left the RAF’s area of responsibility.
While the aircraft never entered UK airspace the Tu-95 was most likely attempting to ascertain how soon it would be detected and intercepted by British air defences. This is an old story, one that has been played out for years between British and Russian/Soviet pilots.
Some in the press believe the Russian mission was linked to Britain’s role in opposing Russian intervention in the Ukraine and is Putin’s way of telling London he will not be intimidated. Nevertheless the timing of the flight couldn’t have been worse for the diplomatic situation as it coincided with a press release regarding the details of Alexander Litvenenko’s post mortem, a former Russian FSB secret service member believed to be working for MI6 who was poisoned by radioactive materials on British soil. It has long been suspected that Moscow was behind the poisoning.