Key point: London needs to get its priorities straight so the Royal Air Force is ready for the future.
The Royal Air Force is about to receive its 160th and final Eurofighter Typhoon fighter. The end of the United Kingdom’s Typhoon acquisition underscores the country’s struggle to maintain an effective fighter force.
The final Typhoon, a Tranche-3 model, should arrive at its home station sometime in 2019. The fighter already has completed test flights at the facilities of BAE Systems, one of the major companies in the Eurofighter consortium.
“The aircraft is now undergoing installation of further equipment and systems, with dedicated tests in between,” Scramble magazine reported.
While the RAF has bought 160 Typhoons since production began in the late 1990s, the U.K. air arm actually operates just 116 Typhoons. The balance have been written off in accidents or retired from service. With final deliveries the Typhoon fleet could expand to as many as 126 fighters.
Fifty-three of the RAF’s Typhoons are of the oldest Tranche-1 variant and lack some of the sensors, software and weapons options of the newer Tranche-2 and Tranche-3 models.
The RAF has decided to keep just 24 of the older Typhoons in service, primarily for air-defense and aggressor duties. The newer Tranche-2s and Tranche-3s fulfill an expeditionary fighter-bomber role with guided weapons such as the Paveway bomb, Brimstone anti-tank missile and Storm Shadow cruise missile.
Typhoons fly with seven front-line squadrons, a training unit and a test flight in the United Kingdom plus a permanent detachment in the Falkland Islands. The seven front-line squadrons and their Typhoons account for the majority of the eight-squadron British fighter fleet.
As of June 2019 the RAF possessed 102 Typhoons and 17 F-35B stealth fighters in eight front-line units. The last squadron of 1980s-vintage Tornado fighter-bombers disbanded in February 2019.