Eurofighter Typhoon: The Best Fighter Jet in the World?

Eurofighter Typhoon: The Best Fighter Jet in the World?

The Eurofighter is operated by the four partner nations of Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain and their leading aerospace and defense companies including Airbus; BAE Systems and Leonardo.

 

NATO member Turkey announced that it is in talks with the UK and Spain to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, but Germany has objected to the idea.

Ankara had previously been a partner in the international F-35 program until it was ejected after it moved forward to acquire the Russian-made S-400 Triumf air defense system.

 

Since then, Turkey has set out to develop a fighter domestically, while it has sought to purchase the latest variant of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. However, it would appear that it has its crosshairs set on the Typhoon, an aircraft that is considered one of the best non-stealth combat aircraft in operation today.

The Eurofighter is operated by the four partner nations of Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain and their leading aerospace and defense companies including Airbus; BAE Systems and Leonardo.

The aircraft has long been undergoing continuous development.

Origins of the Eurofighter Typhoon

Development of the Typhoon began in 1986, with the establishment of the Eurofighter consortium that involved the three countries – Germany, Italy, and the UK – that had worked to develop the Panavia Tornado. Those nations were later joined by Spain, while France had also been an early partner in the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA) before Paris elected to pursue a program that resulted in the development of the Dassault Rafale.

Early work on the EFA project had actually defined the basic concepts for the future Eurofighter Typhoon, including canard foreplanes, active digital fly-by-wire controls, extensive use of carbon fiber composites and other advanced materials, hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) cockpit, advanced avionics, multi-function cockpit displays, and direct voice command input. Many of the technologies had been tested using a full-scale demonstrator, the British Aerospace (BAe) EAP (Experimental Aircraft Programme). Seven prototypes were produced, and the first made its maiden flight in March 1994.

The Eurofighter Almost Didn't Happen

However, before the aircraft made its first flight the world had changed significantly. The Cold War had ended, and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the need for such an advanced – and more notably expensive – fighter jet was questioned.

There were disagreements over the funding and the types of equipment that would be integrated into the aircraft. Yet, the differences were resolved and the first production contracts were signed in 1998. The aircraft was subsequently re-designated the Eurofighter 2000 and later renamed Eurofighter Typhoon.

A More Than Capable Fighter

The twin-engine Typhoon features a canard-delta wing and an airframe that is constructed mostly from composite materials that are 30 percent lighter than more traditional aircraft materials. Just 15 percent of its surface is metal, making it difficult – albeit not impossible – to detect by radar.

The Eurofighter is powered by twin Eurojet EJ200 engines, which each utilize a single-stage turbine driving a three-stage fan and five-stage compressor with annular combustion with vaporizing burners, can provide 90 kN of thrust – with a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 The engines can log up to 1,200 flying hours before requiring unscheduled maintenance.

It enabled cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburning. The Typhoon also employed a deliberately unstable aerodynamic configuration that provided superior maneuverability at subsonic speeds as well as efficient supersonic capability.

It is armed with an internal 27mm Mauser cannon and can carry a variety of ordnance including ASRAAM and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, as well as Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles. It can even be equipped with Paveway precision-guided bombs.

Mechanically Scanned Radar

The Eurofighter's Captor-M mechanically scanned radar's wide field of regard has been noted to offer significant benefits in both air-to-air and air-to-surface engagements. It provided considerable power and aperture for enhanced angular coverage. 

A multi-mode unit, the Captor-M was able to search for targets in Range While Search (RWS), Velocity Search (VS), and multi-target Track While Scan (TWS) modes. Lock-follow Modes were tailored to long-range tracking and short-range tracking for use in visual identification or gun attacks.

In addition, Captor-M's Air Combat Acquisition Modes provide the pilot with a choice of boresight, vertical scan HUD field of view, or slaved acquisition. It further offers three advanced search modes: Range While Search, Velocity Search, and Track While Scan. In addition, there is a set of lock-follow modes that provide short and long-range tracking, which can be used in visual and gun attacks.

The pilot workload was reduced by using advanced features, including direct voice input (DVI) and the hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) control functions, which allow single-pilot operations even in the most demanding missions. Navigation aids also included the latest GPS with a fully digital interface, satellite tracking channels, and anti-jam capabilities.

Service History of the Eurofighter

As of October 2020, 572 Eurofighter Typhoons have been delivered. The aircraft remains in service with the air forces of multiple, including Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK – while Austria, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have also adopted the aircraft. Currently, four of the surviving prototypes are currently on display in museums in Germany, Italy, and the UK.

The Eurofighter made its combat debut as part of the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) military intervention during 2011's Operation Ellamy in the skies over Libya.

In October 2023, Colonel Daniele Locatelli of the Italian Air Force passed 3,000 flying hours in the Eurofighter Typhoon — the first time that had been achieved. He has been flying the aircraft for nearly 20 years and is currently based in Kuwait. Given the capabilities of the Eurofighter, he might not be the last.

Author Experience and Expertise

A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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