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Eurofighter Typhoon: The Best Non-Stealth Fighter Jet Today?

Eurofighter Typhoon
Eurofighter Typhoon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Eurofighter Typhoon – how a former member of the U.S. Air Force evaluates this fighter: In the 1980s, when the dominant players in European aerospace design collaborated to create an air superiority fighter capable of matching Soviet models, the result was the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Typhoon, which was not introduced until 2003, is the progeny of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo – who conducted the project through a joint holding company, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH. 

Eurofighter Typhoon History

The project began in 1983 as the Future European Fighter Aircraft program. Initially, the project included the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Three of the nations, Germany, Italy, and the UK, had just developed the Panavia Tornado and now wanted to produce an even more advanced jet, while including additional nations in the project. France left the project early, however, amidst a dispute regarding design authority and operational authority. (France would instead develop the Dassault Rafale, alone). 

The jet’s production was complicated in the early 90s, when the Soviet Union, essentially the reason the jet was being produced, ceased to exist. Like so many other western weapons development programs that had not yet been completed before the Cold War ended, the Typhoon project was questioned.

Do we need this? Is it worth the cost? The governments funding the project were no longer so certain. Still, the Typhoon project proceeded – although further roadblocks lay ahead. 

A Challenging Project

Coordinating a multi-billion dollar weapons program between European powers is not simple. Competing egos and competing interests complicated the process; decisions that were relatively streamlined when one country was involved were now a venue for discussion and debate.

For example, in 1990, the selection of the aircraft’s radar became a significant dispute. The UK, Italy, and Spain all wanted the new jet to feature the Ferranti Defence Systems ECR-90. Germany, meanwhile, was adamant that the jet feature the APG-65-based MSD2000. Working out a solution required the involvement of Defence Secretaries.

Politics complicated the jet’s design, too. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, East and West Germany reunified. The reunification was financially burdensome, however, inspiring a political atmosphere in which all government spending was strictly scrutinized; anything deemed superfluous was publicly criticized. In 1991, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl made a promise on the campaign trail: if elected, he would cancel Germany’s involvement in the Eurofighter program. Similarly, German Defence Minister Volker Ruhe worked to withdraw Germany from Eurofighter, hoping instead to invest in a cheaper, lighter jet. But the Eurofighter program had already come too far; despite opposition from the top of Germany’s government, the money already spent, the jobs created, and the previous inter-government commitments prevented Germany from withdrawing. The Eurofighter proceeded with everyone on board. 

Eurofighter Typhoon Proved It Was Worth It 

The finished product began flight testing in the mid-90s. One thing was clear: the Typhoon was highly agile, whether at low or high speeds. The agility was owed mainly to a relaxed stability design. To compensate for the jet’s inherent instability, a quadruplex fly-by-wire control system was installed – as a pilot’s manual operation would not have been able to keep the jet stable. The fly-by-wire system prevents the pilot from pushing beyond the permitted maneuvering envelope. 

While the Eurofighter Typhoon is not a stealth fighter, efforts were taken to reduce the jet’s radar cross section (RCS). For example, the Typhoon has inlets that conceal the front of the engines. And many of the jet’s flight surfaces, like the leading edges of the wing, canard, and rudder, are swept to reduce the RCS. Some of the jet’s weaponry is mounted partially recessed into the aircraft, reducing the RCS further. The partially recessed weapons payload is something of a half-measure relative to the fully internal weapons bays found on fifth-generation stealth fighters. 

Powering the Typhoon are two Eurojet EJ200 engines. Each EJ200 provides up to 13,500 pounds of thrust (dry) and 20,230 pounds of thrust (with afterburners). The engines also have a “war” setting, in which dry thrust can be increased 15 percent and afterburner can be increased 5 percent, for a few seconds without damaging the engine. The EJ200 combines technology from all of the participating defense firms – and resultantly, is quite advanced. The engine features digital control and health monitoring; wide chord aerofoils; single crystal turbine blades, and; a convergent/divergent exhaust nozzle.

The Eurofighter Typhoon has been a welcome addition to the participating nation’s arsenal – and has also been exported to Middle Eastern nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. While European entities are beginning to collaborate on a sixth-generation fighter, the Typhoon will likely remain in service for decades to come. 

Bonus: Eurofighter Typhoon Photo Essay

NATO

A UK Typhoon flies above the Baltics on 25 May 2022.
UK and Czech fighter jets have been taking part in air defence training over the Baltic region. UK Eurofighter Typhoons, F-35s and Czech Gripens were involved in an exercise as part of Neptune Shield 22 (NESH22), a multinational maritime vigilance activity. NESH22 has seen a range of multi-domain activities between air, land and maritime assets across Europe and in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. It runs from 17 to 31 May 2022.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Typhoon fitted with the common launcher (computer generated image: for illustrative purposes only)

Eurofighter Typhoon

German Air Force Eurofighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine

A German Air Force Pilot conducts preflight checks from the cockpit of a GAF Eurofighter Typhoon before a combat training mission during Red Flag-Alaska 12-2 June 11, 2012, at Eielson AFB, Alaska. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, joint/coalition, tactical air combat employment exercise which corresponds to the operational capability of participating units. The entire exercise takes place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex over Alaska as well as a portion of Western Canadian for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Released)

F-22 vs. Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Pictured is a Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 performing a display during the 2016 RIAT Royal International Air Tattoo.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. RepublicanslovePutin&hateAmerica

    July 25, 2022 at 8:52 am

    Typhoon is the best fighter in the sky paranoid. Its much faster than the F-22 and more advanced than the Turkey-35. So it can see, keep up and dogfight unlike the Turkey-35.

  2. Mike Burton

    July 26, 2022 at 11:47 am

    British Aerospace (BAE) designed the technology demonstrator in the 1980s under the Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) and this first flew in 1984 before anyone else signed up to the project. The engine, EJ200, is so called for political purposes. It is basically an updated Rolls Royce RB199 unit.

  3. Thai To.my

    July 29, 2022 at 11:04 am

    1984-88 seen a Jaguar flying over the village (Chipping Sodbury) with its wing built forward to make it inherently unstable. Everyone knew it were flying from BAE, Filton testing the fly by wire concept.

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