Letter from Peter Luff MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Ministry of Defence, of 21 December 2011:
I thought your Committee members might be interested in the unclassified RAF brief I have attached about the performance of Typhoon on operations in Libya. Typhoon in its first multi-role mission in providing both air defence and ground attack, has demonstrated exceptional levels of survivability and, in its ground attack role, a targeting capability with minimal collateral damage, proving that it is a truly formidable aircraft.
As you may be aware, Typhoon has already been exported to Saudi Arabia and Austria where it is in operational service, and it is also competing in a number of other important markets.
I am happy to discuss any further questions you might have about Typhoon’s performance.
Typhoon Force On Operation Ellamy – Narrative
1. The Typhoon Force was warned of a possible deployment on 17 Mar 11; by 1300Z on 20 Mar 11, 10 aircraft were in transit to southern Italy. This responsiveness bears testament not only to the hard work and commitment of the Force’s support personnel, but also to the Force’s inherent ability to swing rapidly from a UK training role to an operational one.
Equally impressive, the rapid provision of support infrastructure and turnaround of the deployed aircraft in theatre allowed RAF Typhoons to be employed in support of UN resolution 1973 by 1200Z the following day, less than 18 hours after their arrival.
Two aircraft were immediately employed to meet the air defence task; this move signalled the beginning of the continuous employment, the RAF’s Typhoons maintained operations seven days a week until their departure from theatre. Additionally, the Typhoon’s contribution of four missions per day was maintained with only 31 support personnel. It is usual, across modern aircraft types, for this rate of combat missions to require more support personnel.
2. Having established itself in the air defence role, notice to transition Typhoon to the air-to-surface role was given on 31 March. Less than a week later, on 7 April, the first Typhoon operational multi-role sortie was flown.
RAF Typhoon squadrons had not practiced air-to-ground operations for over a year; the ability of the pilots and ground crew to make this significant role-change, in a very short period of time, reflects the Typhoon’s operational flexibility and the utility of its avionics.
After only two simulator sorties to refresh vital operating skills, the pilots were able to deliver air-to-ground weapons, with precision, by utilising the intuitive weapons interface that Typhoon offers. The Typhoon’s ease of operation and minimal training burden in the multi-role configuration was demonstrated further by the deployment of a second cadre of multi-role pilots; all of whom had no previous Typhoon air-to-surface experience.
After only one week’s training in the UK, they were declared combat ready and deployed on Operation ELLAMY where they delivered air-to-ground weapons without excursion from the Rules of Engagement.
3. The Typhoon’s most impressive characteristic, to those not familiar with its potent performance, was the ease with which it carried large weapon payloads over significant distances in the changeable air environment. On several occasions, en route to the operating area, Typhoon pilots were able to climb over thunderstorms that required other aircraft, with less performance, to re-route around them. This characteristic stood Typhoon apart from its contemporaries.
Carrying up to 4x air-to-air missiles, 4x 1,000 lb bombs, a targeting pod and two under-wing fuel tanks, Typhoon can fly at 40,000 feet and at speeds of over 500 knots while using relatively little fuel. This low fuel consumption had obvious benefits in terms of endurance; it allowed Typhoon to loiter over significant periods providing airborne cover with its complement of air-to-air weapons. Moreover, it also ensured that the Typhoon was less of an air-to-air refuelling burden in the busy airspace.
4. Typhoon’s performance on Operation ELLAMY was a result of more than just its manoeuvrability and power. The combination of Typhoon’s long-range radar picture and Link-16 data link provides the pilot with exceptional and unrivalled situational awareness of the operating area.
This capability on Operation ELLAMY ensured that the aircraft was effectively and efficiently employed. It enabled Typhoon pilots to support those Coalition aircraft with inferior on-board sensors, controlling rendezvous with air-refuelling tankers in poor weather, and cueing other aircraft’s weapon systems from information passed over its data links from Command & Control platforms.
The RAF’s Typhoons returned home from Operation ELLAMY on 23 September 2011 once it was clear that the operational conditions had been met. Since returning from operations, the Typhoon Force has continued to grow its capacity. Moreover, it has contributed significantly to the ongoing Typhoon Export Campaign, with deployment on Exercise ATLC 17 in UAE and the current deployment of aircraft from No 6 Squadron, RAF Leuchars, to Exercise BERSAMA LIMA in Malaysia as part of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement. A summary of Typhoon’s performance on Op ELLAMY is captured below:
(Source: House of Commons Report on Operations in Libya)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Although neither very detailed nor very informative, this is the most comprehensive report released to date by the Ministry of Defence on Typhoon operations in Libya, and is posted here for that reason.)