As we talked about before, the Eurofighter Typhoon has undergone a series of important upgrades which have established it as a truly swing-role capable fighter aircraft. And while that functionality applies to Tranche 2 and 3 aircraft, Tranche 1 Typhoons going forward are going to be maintained specifically in an alert and homeland air defense capacity, as it would be too difficult and cost-prohibitive to upgrade them.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to field as a separate air defence force the Tranche 1 (T1) Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft that are to be retained in service beyond their original retirement date.
The 24 T1 aircraft that were extended from 2019 to the wider Typhoon out-of-service date (OSD) of 2040 in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) of November 2015 will be formed into two distinct air defence squadrons, rather than being mixed with other T2 and T3 aircraft in other multirole units, Deputy Commander of Operations Air Marshal Greg Bagwell told reporters on 30 March.
“The issue was how to operate the Tranche 1 alongside the Tranche 2 and 3 as there is very little spares commonality between them, so it was decided that the plan [should be] for two new squadrons of Tranche 1 Typhoons,” AM Bagwell said.
Given the software limitations of the T1, the RAF has decided not to try and upgrade these particular platforms with the Phase Enhancement upgrade packages that will afford the T2 and T3 platforms with the full swing-role capability set. As such, they will be used solely for air defence duties, and perhaps for adversarial air combat training for other RAF aircraft types.
“The Tranche 1s will be used purely for air defence, as an upgrade [for swing-role] will be prohibitively expensive. The two squadrons of Tranche 1 Typhoons will own the air defence role, and we are also looking at using them for ‘red air’ along with the Hawk,” AM Bagwell noted.
The UK bases its Typhoons at RAF Coningsby in England (Quick reaction Alert [QRA] South) and at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (QRA North). It also has a detachment of four air defence aircraft permanently stationed in the Falkland Islands.