Typhoon Blocks, Tranches and Enhancement Programmes

In the recent F35 series I went described the concept of the different capability blocks and how over time, capabilities would expand.

Typhoon has a similar incremental development programme that is equally, if not more, complex.

The best overview is produced by Fast Air Photography

Click to view

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.fast-air.co.uk/typhoon-block-tranche-summary/”]



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Peter Elliott
February 12, 2013 11:50 am

Very helpful explanation TD

Makes it very clear that the future development path of Typhoon is a UK / BAe enterprise.

While this imposes cost penalties it also offers industrial advantages. Future export orders would likely be built on the UK line and future enhancements and sub systems are also more likely to be UK made.

The only question is whether we can keep the line open long enough to reap the benefits in the 2020s. That would be the opportunity to make a top-up order for the RAF of a mature, stable, home built, proven product.

If we can clean up the Arabian Peninsula, and maybe take a chunk of the Indian order, it may yet result in a happy ending…

February 12, 2013 12:19 pm

It’s a shame Typhoon is so expensive. If it came in a little cheaper I think it would wipe the floor.

Perhaps we made a seriously wrong long-term, financio-tactical decision not going Rafale. An Anglo-French fighter would have seen Canada move to a European jet, Australia might then shift, followed by just about everyone else currently with Mirage or Migs.

I know it’s easy to say this but with Rafale and Typhoon going head to head rather than standing shoulder-to-shoulder it tends to push people away from the Eurocanards.

Peter Elliott
February 12, 2013 12:29 pm


It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming Canadian review results in. Even if they don’t change their order it will be very valuable as a benchmark. With the development path set out above by TD, Typhoon could actually be competitive with F35 in the export market.

Especially as we don’t actually know the F35 unit price yet. Typhoon may yet prove to be cheaper.

I agree with the hindsight that it would have been better to have been onboard with the French, but in that case the politics would have been even worse, and we might not now have a plane in service at all!

Making the best of the situation we need to see Rafale off – which if we can wrestle back the India order and complete the developments outlined above we will be well on the way to doing.

February 12, 2013 12:58 pm

I’ve often wondered why 5 or 10 years ago, Eurofighter or BAE, never proposed a Two Seat Strike Variant, with so many Tornadoes IDV’s and other Cold War legacy aircraft in need of replacement.

I can’t see BAE taking a T1 and making an FGR5, in the same way McDonell Douglas took a F15B and converted it into the prototype F15E. I suppose that time has past. Although I believe they had they would have been on to a winner.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 3:58 pm


I read that and get the exact opposite feeling about the program. That is a very weak an undefined development path in my view. Nothing right now is funded beyond what is a pretty basic ground attack capability.

I think all of Meteor, Storm Shadow and Brimstone make it onto Typhoon but I would certainly not bet my life on all three either given the state of the world right now.

The rest of it sounds pretty bleak. Tranche 3a was basically a fiscal cop out and a way to push back additional capabilities to the hypothetical 3b tranche without having to say that such capabilities were now delayed and might never get funded.

I can’t see anyone who is not doing so for political reasons signing up for Eurofighter going forward. There are too many lingering questions if I am asked to buy into the program.

1. What weapons will I be able to use with the aircraft and when? I can probably get pretty decent answers on this one but it still is more iffy than I would like. I think the current stuff will get integrated but what about stuff coming down the pike and other things I might want to use? Unless the F-35 program tanks you know it will get most new weapons integrated with it. Will Eurofighter? What if I need provisions for an anti-ship weapon? What about weapons not on that list? Sure if money is no object I can likely pay and do it myself but why take that risk.

2. What will the installed user base for an AESA radar be? Sure, it will get developed but how many nations are buying it and how many sets are they buying? I don’t want to buy 50 Eurofighters and find out that the RAF is the only European power buying the AESA radar and that they are only putting it on their tranche 3a aircraft. Do I have a broad commitment from the other powers to buy this radar and more importantly to iron out all the problems with it over time (make no mistake, AESA radar will take years to have working at 100% capacity even after it hits the field and the programing tricks with it are always developing).

Gripen in my view has the same problem. You have a kind of, sort of commitment from Switzerland and Sweden openly saying if Switzerland balks they are out of the NG program too without an export partner. How strong is that commitment to see one through developmental difficulties?

The Eurofighter is a fantastic aerodynamic platform but I just don’t see it gaining a lot of traction going forward. Nothing in that development path would reassure me either.

February 12, 2013 6:10 pm

I will point out that eurofighter has the same number of countries buying/operating the jet as jsf has overseas customers. 570 a/c are on firm order with potential for more roughly similar to projected non US F35 numbers. Why will people be interested in typhoon instead of an American a/c quite simply ITAR. You can put extremely capabile sensor/weapons on typhoon which don’t have itar restrictions and nations outside the 4 partner nations can choice something different to the partner nation should they so wish and indeed have already done so.

February 12, 2013 6:48 pm

Curse my poor short term memory, I can’t remember where Mark posted that link to LM claiming F35 can sorry will fly the nuts off everything else (I think that was the gist of their claims, but I may have exaggerated a tad there :-D ); anyway, the DEW line has dug up a response from an old Typhoon test pilot. I suspect he might be seething a bit! His actual response is on the link “Cenciotti’s story”


February 12, 2013 7:04 pm


Think that sums it up pretty well. Another interesting quote from an f22 pilot on the current pre red flag us training course

““It’s a pretty cool opportunity,” said Capt. Austin Skelley, an F-22 pilot with the 27th Fighter Squadron who helped plan the joint exercise, called Western Zephyr. “People are really excited and eager to fight with and against Typhoon.”

The Typhoon is a unique airframe from the F-22 pilot’s perspective, offering advanced avionics, improved situational awareness and plenty of power in thrust and speed that pilots don’t encounter when going head-to-head against F-15s, F-16s and F/A-18s, Langley pilots said.

“The Typhoon offers the F-22 a unique capability that sort of bridges the gap between the fourth and fifth generation,” Skelley said.”

Peter Elliott
February 12, 2013 7:29 pm

@Jeremey MH

Its all about the mood music isn’t it?

As far as I can see the UK finds itself in the position where it has the _opportunity_ to develop Typhoon into a real world beater, export success, and backbone of the RAF for a long time to come. We are pretty committed to putting the Tornado weapons on before 2019. MBDA seem to be making the best missiles in the world at the moment. Conformals are in manufacture. AESA is booked into the development path. And the UK is now free to push forward on all of these without having to get permission from the partner nations first. All it needs is a good firm statement of commitement from UK plc of where we are going and why, and the export orders could quickly multiply.

But whether UK plc will actually take up that opportunity or piss it away as has been done often in the past is what gives everyone the willies. SDSR 2015 can’t come soon enough methinks…

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 7:40 pm


That is great but quite frankly who is Europe going to sell to that can afford a Eurofighter the US would not sell F-35’s to going forward? Canada could get whatever it wanted from the US. Ditto Japan. Ditto Australia. Ditto Turkey. I see a few possibilities out there but they are rapidly dwindling and the numbers are not huge.

Eurofighter has a good user base now, that is very true. But it also has a user base that looks to be eager to cut their cost as evidenced by the way they are pursuing Tranche 3 by splitting it. That was really done for marketing purposes. They didn’t want to say that the high end improvements are dead by specking Tranche 3 how 3a will come out. But at the same time no one wanted to pay for all of the improvements either. It is just something to be concerned about if you are someone looking to buy. Or for that matter if you are an air force flying them. What exactly are you going to have at the end of the day?

While I think a lot of his points are on target (both sides are overplaying as the F-35 will be agile enough for how it wants to fight) I find the title and conclusion to be curious. I don’t have to look at the F-35 sensors and design for long to realize that they have almost no intention of being in a turning dog fight. It will be highly effective WVR but not at all in the same way that an aircraft traditionally is.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 7:45 pm


The problem with your position is that I don’t think the Eurofighter can be developed into a world beater. It is the right aircraft but at the wrong time. The pinnacle of an age that, depending on how serious the security environment gets, will end relatively rapidly.

February 12, 2013 7:47 pm

@Jeremy M H – ” F-35 will be agile enough for how it wants to fight” – Yes I agree with you, which is why I was so surprised that LM came out with the comments that they did, having spent years making the case for F35 fighting in a different WAY to previous generations.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 8:04 pm

Honestly…their audience with that is not people who pay a ton of attention but people in congress and the media who don’t know a tank from an up-armored humvee. I also don’t think their statements were wrong. Depending on how one matches weapons, fuel loads and sensors they won’t be way off base. It is something that should not be necessary but I get why they did it. You have to get to the point you can demonstrate all that stuff without getting hammered to death in the court of public opinion.

It should be quite interesting. The F-35 should be able to be flown in a wholly defensive manner while still shooting its weapons offensively. Going to be an odd learning curve on that one.

February 12, 2013 8:15 pm

Imagine we’d have based our entire DIS around Typhoon and not entered a coalition?

Ten years ago we would have had completed T1s coming off the line and T3bs would be one the way with full weapons fit. Instead, we await Italy and Spain for software updates and Germany for extending the range.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 8:25 pm


Hate to say it but take out Germany, Italy and Spain and Eurofighter does not get built at all.

Peter Elliott
February 12, 2013 8:42 pm

The politics of the design and workshare were pretty horrific.

I think its sheer luck we’ve ended up where we are. Which is with a lot of the ‘hard yards’ done: a damn good airframe in production and the freedom to develop it just as the other partners lose interest.

And the key competitors are not in great shape. Rafale and Gripen struggling to build a user base. And F35 is late, with unknown unit costs, and unknown performance metrics.

February 12, 2013 9:08 pm

“Hate to say it but take out Germany, Italy and Spain and Eurofighter does not get built at all.”


We did!

February 12, 2013 9:29 pm

“Imagine we’d have based our entire DIS around Typhoon and not entered a coalition?”

We’d be driving Leopards and sailing FREMMs, but I’m not convinced thats a bad trade for being completely in charge of a properly funded Typhoon program.
Single engined version? why not?
Two seater carrier version? Of course.


Unless people needed to buy from the US, or were fixated on stealth, Typhoon should be winning everything.
Instead, everyone looks at it and wonders when/if it’ll have functional, everything…

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 9:33 pm


BAE built an unarmed demonstrator aircraft. Turning those into combat aircraft is about 80% of the development battle. The basic shape is the simple part.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 9:35 pm


Everyone is fixated on stealth because it is an overwhelming advantage in air to air combat so long as radar is the primary means to detect aircraft at a distance.

February 12, 2013 9:47 pm

“Everyone is fixated on stealth because it is an overwhelming advantage in air to air combat so long as radar is the primary means to detect aircraft at a distance.”

It’s not overwhelming if you don’t have another platform to detect and track your targets. You defeat stealth aircraft by going after those detection and designation platforms, ie AWACs. A stealth plane that energises is to my knowledge, no longer stealthy at all. I am sure it is more complex than that but dumping huge amounts of detectable energy out would be like shining a torch in a dark room.

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 10:13 pm

Yeah, that is making things way too simple. You can’t generally shoot at a fighter on an ESM fix. If they just blazed away with their radar and you have very good gear and time to establish just where they were moving you could certain do so. The problem being that if they detect your shot and shut down their radar and you don’t have them on your radar how do you provide mid-course updates to get your missile in its detection zone?

I know you are not a believer in LPI functions on AESA sets but I am going to side with all the nations that basically told Eurofighter (and Rafale for quite a while) to take a hike until they had a concrete plan to deliver them the fighter with that type of radar. Everyone wants it and my presumption is that most nations are not stupid.

As a practical matter even if we assume you are right and that AESA and LPI do nothing for you and you must have AWACs to make it worth while if we equip both sides identically except one side has LO fighters they still have a huge advantage. The only way to really take that away is to make the detection & engagement range for LO aircraft by the non-LO platform be equal to the effective engagement range of the LO aircraft.

The problem is that radar radar advances work against you just as much as they do for you unless the weapons get to where they can’t reach as far as the detection ranges. Since that won’t be the case for quite a while that leaves us back where we started. The non-LO aircraft is being shot at before it can effectively shoot back.

February 12, 2013 10:19 pm

No idea what LPI is.

My point was its a big game of chess up there and stealth isn’t a silver bullet if the opposition has got its electronic act together. Against less than peer enemies it is powerful no doubt, but if somehow the US was fighting us with our electronic capabilities, I have no doubt its effectiveness would be degraded.

February 12, 2013 10:33 pm

Jeremy M H,

“The basic shape is the simple part”

Tell that to some of the biggest supercomputers in the world, the difficulty in building an elliptical wing platform in wood and the Sears-Haack cross section for wave drag.

Bombs are bombs. Bodywork is art.

I think you’re elluding to the difficulty with software, which, as a software chap, I can tell you, you’ve been ripped off for the past 30 years!

Jeremy M H
February 12, 2013 10:42 pm


Yes, I am talking about software and radars and ground targeting capabilities and data sharing and cooling and engines and powering all of the above.

I am sure software companies overcharge. I am sure defense software is as bad as it can be in that regard. But I would venture that the huge majority of the cost cost of an all new airplane lie not in the aerodynamics but in everything else. Building a frame and putting existing engines and avionics in it is the very start but there is a reason it takes everyone years to go from things like the EAP, the YF-22 and the X-35 to production models. It is really just a starting point for spending a ton of money.

February 12, 2013 11:03 pm

“It is really just a starting point for spending a ton of money.”

I kind of like that statement.

My view is that a new aircraft is more difficult and expensive to produce than a new weapon system. The problem is that we tend to shove lots of new weapons systems onto one airframe making it seem that the airframe is the easy bit… it isn’t, it’s the hardest, by a long way.

Compare F35 with existing weapons/systems that simply bolt in/on the airframe. Something I think was mentioned a week or two ago was the idea of F35 “club” rather than “elite”. It’s the reason we do Typhoon in blocks. Typhoon A2A is your starting point for spending a ton of money, of which the airframe and engine are the big engineering challenges.

February 12, 2013 11:40 pm

I might have missed it in the detail, but re there any plans to arm the Typhoon with an anti-ship missile such as the Harpoon or Joint Strike Missile? This would make the Typhoon more attractive in the Asia Pacific region.

February 13, 2013 1:55 am

With Typhoon, we had a lot of the electronics done by ourselves as well. We did the bulk of the flight computer work for that EAP and the eventual radar was a mod of one of ours. We probably could have done that almost by ourselves (with the Italians pitching in, who did one of the wings for EAP and seemed on board with what we wanted). The political delays probably eroded most, if not all, of the supposed savings from sharing, not least because we funded that first prototype and then nobody else would so we only got the one.

Phil, LPI = Low Probability of Intercept. Or in other words, a radar designed to minimise the chances of detection. You mentioned yourself about the cat and mouse game of technology, and it already seems that the mouse is about to turn on the cat, as new techniques and digital receivers are starting to erode the advantages of LPI.

I think we also need to be careful about the F-35. On paper right now it looks superior to an F-16 or F-18, and electronics wise it might even top the F-15, but things move rapidly. The F-35, like the Typhoon, derives most of it’s “stealth” from the frontal, head on aspect. If my notoriously poor memory serves me well this time, then I think the F-35 was not given as much concern to all aspect radar signature reduction as the F-22 (obviously some was, even just the coating is a start).

Then we have the development of radars themselves. The radars of today are more powerful, with better processors and more complex algorithms (sp?) than radars of the past. Even the most stealthy of stealth aircraft will reflect back a certain amount of energy. Better radars as time passes will have more output and a better ability to process the signals that return to them. That probably won’t “kill” stealth, but it does degrade the advantages of it.

My biggest concern, the more I think about it, is how the F-35’s DAS will cope with high off bore shots. The Aussies have supposedly tested a shot at a target that was right behind the wing line of an F-18 (with ASRAAM), but I wonder if that might become one of these dreaded “Vietnam” scenarios, whereby a technology doesn’t work in combat the way it did in testing.

February 13, 2013 2:28 am


I agree that with an upgrade path already in place and excellent technology coming from MBDA the UK could if it chose first clarify what Typhoon potentially offers and then really push for additional exports. A package of Typhoon, Hawk T2 and all of the associated maintenance and upgrade support sounds like a good mixture to me. It may be a bit pricey for a lot of customers, and their is no doubt Typhoon will always face some stiff competition, but it’s at least worth a try!

Jeremy M H
February 13, 2013 4:09 am


RE: Radar Development & Stealth

The fundamental problem with your stance is that improved radar performance works in both directions. If I push my radar range out to 50km against an F-35 class target then I am looking at that same set working at something like 115km’s against a Eurofighter. Those are rough nubmers but it conveys the relative problem you are looking at. That problem won’t change with radar power. It only changes if the number for the LO fighter gets pushed out where it is detected at a range beyond its weapons.

With regards to all aspect stealth I believe Air Power Australia is about the only one still pitching the frontal aspect only thing. The RCS is more from the side, but then again so is the F-22’s. The most agreed upon numbers for the F-35 seem to be 0.0015 m2 from the front and .01 m2 from the back and sides. EF’s numbers are unreleased but most estimates have them between around .5 to 1 m2 last time I looked.

Also the F-35 is worlds ahead of any F-15 when it comes to electronics. If it is doing anything at a high level then electronics are it.

February 13, 2013 9:38 am

“No idea what LPI is. ”
Low probability of intercept.
The radar pules are done in such a way to look like back scatter rather than a definate search.
But it is, like stealth, not a silver bullet.

Stealth is more or less redundant at close range is it not?
Its all well and good to say, haha, I can see you at 100km, you can only see me at 50km, but if you are 25km distant, its not a huge advantage. If you plan on dropping bombs, you are going to have to be close to your target.

Its a tool, not an I win button, one far more suited to offence than defence too.

February 13, 2013 5:23 pm

@ Jeremy,

“That problem won’t change with radar power. It only changes if the number for the LO fighter gets pushed out where it is detected at a range beyond its weapons.”

— To which radar power contributes and which is probably one of the big issues for “stealth” going forward. Thanks to the wonders of computers etc, chances are radars are going to evolve at quite a rapid rate over the next decade or so. This is what worries me about the projections of F-35 going forward. There may still be airworthy frames that last for 30 years etc, but the technology of radars will in all likely hood have made their level of radar signature reduction a moot point by then. The Russkies are already creeping up in that regard.

“The most agreed upon numbers for the F-35 seem to be 0.0015 m2 from the front and .01 m2 from the back and sides. EF’s numbers are unreleased but most estimates have them between around .5 to 1 m2 last time I looked.”
— There are no released, official figures for either, but yes we can fairly safely guess-timate that the F-35 will be better in RCS reduction than the Typhoon, and that the Typhoon derives most of its RCS reduction from the front.

But it’s also generally agreed (last time I checked, and no, I don’t count that Aus Airpower nutter) that the F-35 suffers more from the side aspect than you’re suggesting there. It’ll be superior from the side aspect than a Typhoon, that’s not really in doubt. But the advantage is predicted to be not quite as dramatic as the frontal RCS reduction.

“Also the F-35 is worlds ahead of any F-15 when it comes to electronics”
— Maybe in computing power and sophistication, but don’t underestimate the old F-15. That’s a powerful set it has up front and has proven itself under combat conditions to be an exceptional radar.

Jeremy M H
February 13, 2013 6:16 pm


I think we are talking in circles about the radar vs stealth issue. The problem with improved radar is that while it is true you will see the F-35 sooner it also means you will see things like the EF and SU-35 sooner. Simply put for a given radar capability I will see a EF at something like 3-4 times the range of an F-35 and an SU-27 variant much further still. All radar power is really going to do is push both rather than one of those numbers around. The gap will stay there. And that gap is valuable is it not? Theoretically if you have a good enough radar you can make the detection range for both so great that LO technology becomes irrelevant. But we are a massively long way away from that point.

While I agree with the general premise that radar will get better it will be like most things a development that comes in fits and jerks rather than some smooth progressive curve like computer processor development. People like to tie it to Moore’s Law but it really is not and has not progressed in that manner over history.

February 13, 2013 7:14 pm

I’d agree that the incresing power helps both sides. The problem is that the weapons range is unlikely to advance at the same speed as the radar technology.

The radars themselves do develop in fits and jerks, as people work on new radars and bring them into service, but the underlying technology and programming on which this equipment is based is developing roughly in accordance with Moore’s Law. Over time, a plot would would probably show the curve with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

I think one of the big concerns is how people will go about coupling L-band and similar radars (that are getting airborne now) with the radars carried on the missiles themselves, in respect of “we know the target is somewhere over there, go fetch” type programming.

February 13, 2013 11:31 pm

Defeating LO through higher radar output doesn’t solve the problem. You are only making yourself a big fat emitting target.

Defeating LPI through passive means is also a non-starter. You cannot simply rely on that few data you receive, there will always be some beamforming or pure computing powered nastiness. Ask the Syrians.

And still, you need to have a targetting resolution.

On Typhoons upgrade path, we will see. Maybe, there will be AESA. Maybe CFTs. But, I don’t expect it to get much more export orders. Too many ifs and gaps. If that’s the case, we talk about a closed production line in the late 2010s.

My understanding is, that air-launched Harpoon is as a matter of fact out of service in the UK.

NSM will be integrated into F-35, but as the RAF has zero interest in naval warfare, I bet all my money that Typhoon will never get them.

February 14, 2013 9:32 am

With regards to Harpoon and NSM onboard Typhoon – Is there really that great a need at the moment or even in the foreseeable future?

Brimstone is capable of tackling anything without a proper AA missile. For instance SeaRAM only has range of 9km vs 12km for Brimstone. Against anything more powerful, we far more likely to deploy a submarine against against the target.

Alternatively is there any reason why Storm Shadow couldn’t be used? I agree its not the perfect weapon to use and I imagine the flight control software would need an upgrade, but I see no reason why it couldn’t be regarded as “good enough” until a more substantial threat became a consideration.

February 14, 2013 11:00 am

Brimstone would have very little effect against a ship, even a small one
Sea Skua had a 40kg warhead.
Brimstone, a 10kg warhead.
Sea Skua damaged ships systems, rather than ships.

Brimstone might not even manage that, although given advances in targeting, it would no doubt be capable of pin point attacks on sensors, weapons systems ect.

“Against anything more powerful, we far more likely to deploy a submarine against against the target.”
We are, but not everyone has our submarine corps.
For most nations, Typhoon would have to accomplish almost everything, and thats going to include destroying 2000t missile boats.

Stormshadow as is would need a lot of work.
The problem is it essentially flies blind until the last few seconds. It uses GPS coordinates programed on the ground to fly to a target area, and only then does it deploy an infra red camera to locate the target.
A ship in port could be hit, but a ship at sea isnt going to stay in place long enough to be targetted, a missile programed, Typhoon launched and a successful strike to be carried out against the initial location.
Then again, perhaps its a simple matter to mate the control systems of Brimstone to Stormshadow. Then you do have a weapon which could blow apart most ships.

February 14, 2013 7:28 pm

TrT how do you work that one out? Correct me if I’m wrong but the Brimstone is an anti tank weapon. It’s designed to hit a tank at a steep angle at speed on the turret to crack it and then effectively inject a spike of molten depleted uranium into the cabin ie it’s like a really really nasty modern flechette. I don’t really think the point of Brimstone is to destroy the tank but to turn the crew into puree.

I’d image one of those hitting your lightly armed T23 in the bridge say might make a massive mess of elements the crew….consoles and so on. No it doesn’t stop the ship but it creates chaos and damage control are going to dealing with hideously wounded personnel and buggered kit. So what happens if you get multiple hits? The main Ops room might not be reachable but you’ve created loads of chaos and confusion.

February 14, 2013 7:43 pm

@ McZ,

“Defeating LO through higher radar output doesn’t solve the problem. You are only making yourself a big fat emitting target.”
— Unless you intend to shoot down the enemy with rocks or with the power of thought, at some point you will have no choice but to emit. There’s no two ways about it. If you intend to shoot down the enemy at any reasonable range then you’re going to have light them up at some stage.

“Defeating LPI through passive means is also a non-starter”
— Except that the process is already well underway. So I guess it is a starter after all.

“And still, you need to have a targetting resolution”
— This is where one of the key development areas exists for semi-guided weapons. The Russians already have medium range IR guided weapons.

Things like L-band radars can pick out low signature targets, but only to the extent of saying “there’s something over there somewhere, in that 500m wide sphere”, but with no target recognition for example. The logical extension of that process is to use various forms of terminal guidance, whereby the the aircraft would point the weapon in the right direction and then the on board seeker (of whatever type) will have to do the last leg of work itself.

That’s a problem that can easily be solved in the next decade.

I just think that given the way electronics and software work, it’s going to be a lot easier in the future to focus on onboard systems than relying too heavily on things like “stealth” shaping.

February 14, 2013 8:08 pm

“but you’ve created loads of chaos and confusion.”

Would anyone notice?!

February 14, 2013 10:01 pm

Thought this might be interesting its a call from MBDA for basic research for components for future missiles – presumably part of the complex weapons/SPEAR programme, though it appears to include funding from both the UK and French Government. http://www.mcmitp.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/ITP-Handbook-August-2012-Issue-2.pdf

They are looking to fund research in the following areas:

2.2.1 Domain 1: Systems

This domain considers:

 System concepts and architectures – how to use existing
technologies in novel ways.
 Guided weapons techniques – basic research into system
technologies such as image processing, guidance, navigation,
control, aerodynamics, human factors and communications.
 Processes, modelling and tools – priorities are concerned with
reducing whole life cycle costs and the amount of effort required to
integrate a technology.

2.2.2 Domain 2: Radio Frequency (RF) Seekers

This domain considers RF seekers which can be thought of as
miniature radars. The main drivers are to reduce whole life cost and
improve accuracy and performance.

 RF Devices – 50% of this system is taken up by the transmitter and
gimbal, receivers and frequency references.
 Dual mode seeker – integration of Electro-Optic (EO) sensors,
datafusion and dome material.
 Synthetic aperture radar.

2.2.3 Domain 3: EO Seekers
The focus of the research is on high priority areas for the UK and
French guided weapons EO industry.
 On-board passive and active imaging EO sensors and Semi Active
Laser (SAL) sensors.
 Passive and active proximity fuzing and EO altimeter.
 Reduce whole life cycle cost and enhance capability against
difficult operation scenarios.
 Dual mode seeker – integration of Electro-Optic (EO) sensors,
datafusion and dome material.

2.2.4 Domain 4: Rocket Propulsion

This domain is concerned with rocket propulsion for tactical missiles.

The main themes are concerned with:
 Thrust modulation.
 Thrust vector control.
 Insensitive munitions.
 Sensors for service life surveillance and extension.
 Hybrid propulsion.
 Smart motors.

2.2.5 Domain 5: Air Breathing Propulsion

This domain considers turbojets, turbofans, turboprops and hybrid
engines based on turbojets. The domain excludes ramjets.

The research themes are:
 Reduce fuel consumption.
 Enlarge flight envelope.
 Depletable engine.
 Disruptive Turbo Jet Engine architectures.
 Improved engine/aircraft integration.

2.2.6 Domain 6: Warheads

This covers all target defeat mechanisms such as explosive effects,
penetrators or novel “non lethal” effects.
 Technology for insensitive munitions.
 Improved performance/efficiency.
 Effects against wider target set.
 Improved degree and type of effect.
 Tools and techniques.
 Novel/disruptive technology.

2.2.7 Domain 7: Fuzes and SAU

This domain is expected to cover all fuzing technologies for pre and
post impact. These may include:
 Target detection device technologies.
 Safety technologies.
 Initiation technologies.
 Environmental sensor technologies.

Post impact technologies are required for penetration of bunkers or to
allow the missile to determine which floor of a building it has penetrated.

2.2.8 Domain 8: Materials and Electronics

This domain covers two disciplines, each of which contains a very wide
spectrum of technologies.

Topics for materials include:
 New composite materials (refractory, advanced ceramics).
 Polymers composites.
 Smart materials, nano-materials.
 Smart control and morphing, sensing and control actuation.
 Smart morphing composites.
 Low observable materials.
 Fragmentable materials for covers.
 Simulation and modelling techniques.
Topics for Electronics include:
 Micro technologies (MEMS) and nano-technologies (nanomaterials, nano-electronics).
 System on chip.
 System in package.
 Safety architecture (electronics and software).
 Technologies behaviour and modelling.
 Batteries or energy storage devices for micro-missiles.
 Future Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) technology for missile
 Innovative data transmission technologies

February 15, 2013 2:59 am

eagle, think you mixed up a shaped charge with an FSDS round. Shaped charges don’t inject metal into the target unless you count the blast shaping cone, which is really a minute amount. What pierces the armour is actually a gas jet of superheated, overpressured air and explosive. Against ships, you would probably be better off using a fragmentation/blast warhead. On the other hand, I see no big problem in developing a warhead that can be swapped out for the shaped charge one. 10kg vs 40kg isn’t a wonderful comparison, but it still does an interesting job of smashing stuff and more importantly, setting things on fire.

As for LO vs radar, being detected further out, even within weapons range, plays a big part in A2A. The further out the launch, the more time for the attacked platform to take proper evasive action. Besides, you do air patrols with radar on or you might as well not bother, visual spotting is seriously unreliable.

February 15, 2013 8:25 am

Well, a much bigger missile *did* hit a a much smaller ships bridge, possibly twice.
It shut the ship down as a military asset, but it sailed home under its own power. If a larger warship, with properly segregated systems suffered the same damage, well, it would lose its bridge crew, but dont they have a secondary bridge?

If Brimstone hit the main gun on a T45, it would almost certainly disable it, if it hit the VLS silos, maybe secondary explosions would blow the ship? But unless you scored, I dont know, a dozen near waterline hits, could you actually sink it?

That said, if you hit the radars, would you need to?
I assume they are fairly fragile?

February 15, 2013 9:12 am

This may sound rather nasty, but if it was up to me, I’d design the warhead with a mix of blast/fragmenatation mixed with white phosp. Fire kills ships now just as it did 200 years ago, and a ship crew running around doing firefighting is not planning creative ways to get even.

Doubt any of the navy would thank me for planning to set them and their ship on fire though.

February 15, 2013 10:19 am

But do you need or want to actually sink an enemy ship?

What’s a greater burden for your potential foe: The displaced crew from a sunk ship, or the displaced crew and a damaged vessel that needs constant protection?

February 15, 2013 1:09 pm

Depends on the war I suppose.
Any damage taken in a “Falklands” scenario is going to remain in play for the war. In a “world war” scenario, any ship that makes it home, will be repaired and back in the fight.

That said, the Guerrico was forced back to port damaged, Alferez Sobral, was forced back to port damaged, the sante fe was forced back to port damaged.
The Belgrano was destroyed, and Argentina abandoned the sea entirely.
The loss of the Belgrano had effects far greater than the actual loss of the Belgrano. Would the Veinticinco de Mayo have gone home if the Belgrano had just suffered a few dozen dead and lost a couple of gun turrets?

February 15, 2013 1:41 pm

Tom asked “But do you need or want to actually sink an enemy ship?”


February 15, 2013 1:53 pm

Its a fair question, akin to “is it better to wound a soldier and force the rest of his fireteam to carry him back to the medic”

February 15, 2013 3:17 pm

Problem is that with a downed soldier, his capability is almost totally lost, for hardware, even a beached ship which is half wrecked can have damaged systems bypassed or datalinked and still cause the loss of a ship or a fighter. This is even more so with plug and play modules nowadays, you can do incredibly fast repairs on ships and get them back into service in short time periods. Sinking them or burning them to the waterline solves this very nicely thank you.

For example, in the example of bridge hits above, the ship can still function at near full capacity from the CIC. In WWII, there were a lot of cases of ships with battle damage being planked up, patched up, damage bypassed and sent back out into the fighting in a day or two.

February 15, 2013 3:18 pm

TrT – Sinking of the Belgrano, yes you do have a point there.

Of course it wasn’t sunk by a aircraft firing a Sea Eagle/Harpoon, but a Sub.

For the sort of operations we envision deploying on we have plenty of suitable ASuW weapons, especially with if both the LMM and FASGW.

For everything else, there’s UORs.

February 15, 2013 3:36 pm

@ TrT

Yes it is a fair question. I just didn’t know how to answer so, um.

February 15, 2013 4:28 pm

Thanks for that Observer. I personally think making the ship inoperable even if temporarily is more useful a ship that has been sunk. I just think it’s better to tie up the resources tending to the damaged ship.

I think you are right it’s a pretty horrible suggestion payload wise but probably the ‘right’ one in terms of making a big mess and causing lots of problems. We already use anti personnel munitons which do some pretty horrific things so I don’t think it wouldn’t be anything new.

February 15, 2013 5:17 pm

As has been said, fire kills ships better than anything. Oxidised fuel spills down all the nooks and crannies and melts all sorts of things. There are stories of the Galahads decks glowing white hot and I believe many DC personnel on one US vessel in the 80s (Stark?) suffered severe burns to their feet and lower legs because the water they were standing in whilst conducting DC began to boil.

Blast just opens them up like a can unless it is a catastrophic blast.

February 15, 2013 6:07 pm

Yup, USS Stark, hit during the Tanker Wars of the 80s.

eagle, the word “inoperative” is the key here. Problem is that it really takes a lot to turn a ship “inoperative”, even if it was heavily damaged. The Stark we mentioned took dual Exocet hits and still made it to port under its’ own power. A lot of ship systems are also standalone to prevent catastrophic battle damage, so even a ship that is trashed might still have weapons systems active, and it only takes a single missile to ruin a pilot or sailor’s day.

Your suggestion makes sense for human beings. Not so for equipment. A ship that reaches port can be functionally as good as new within 24 hours, maybe even less with new “plug and play” systems, the resources needed to unpack a module from the warehouse and replace the damaged ones is miniscule. After 24 hours, it’s as if you never hit it in the first place. You might as well kill the ship and make sure it never fires at you ever again.

February 15, 2013 6:38 pm

One thing worth considering in Brimstone vs Anti-ship weapon of choice, is that Brimstone comes in a three rack mounting where you might otherwise have previously put one missile. So you’d be trading the range of the proper AShM for the potential to hit the ship in three places and potentially string out the damage control efforts.

I think I’m with Phl and Observer on the warhead side as well, you ideally want something incendiary with a liquid component. Fire, fire, fire, as opposed to how big a hole you can make.

February 15, 2013 7:57 pm

“Except that the process is already well underway. So I guess it is a starter after all.”

Is it operational? How was it tested? Where is the evidence showing that a F-22s (as the only operational lpi aircraft) signals where used to pin down the exact position of the aircraft? Was it traceable, ie was it detectable when not sending or switching lobe shape? And does this technique account for nasties added by the lightning’s much more sophisticated suite?

The problem facing the opponent if the F-35 is a matter of certainty. The AESA is not only a very sophisticated, emission-economic sensor. It’s also an ECM suite. You will face the problem of guessing, if your sensor data is actually correct or just what the
plane sent to you ie wants you to receive.

Anyway, the tech able to occasionally defeat a lpi/li combo will certainly devalue any conventional setup. So I don’t get, what the alternative would be?!

And long-range ir? It is dependent on imaging tech, and this is even easier to jam (low yield laser, intelligent heat source).

On ASuW. I guess only three or four countries in the world have their ship not mission killed by destroying their sensor arrays. It’s a matter of availability of skill and materiel.

February 16, 2013 9:48 am

Actually Mc, passive IR is one of the most likely ways to detect a stealth aircraft, the heat emitted might be a good way to track it. Problem about loading up with countermeasures is that sooner or later you’ll be packing too much into a single plane by trying to counter multiple types of detection systems. The stealth shaping and ECM itself already takes up a fair chunk of systems, unless there is a big breakthrough in miniturization, stacking countermeasures is a losing game. Too much stuff, too little fighter.

I’m actually more interested in the question “If F-35 is going to be the primary interception fighter post 2030, is there any point spending more to upgrade the Typhoon instead of saving for further F-35 development?”

February 16, 2013 10:30 am

The three missile rack is an interesting point, although I must assume that its not only brimstone that “could” do that.
I’ve seen it mentioned that a typhoon on ground attack carries 18 Brimstones, which would, assuming targets can be hit accurately, knock a ship out of action effectively.

“I think I’m with Phl and Observer on the warhead side as well, you ideally want something incendiary with a liquid component. Fire, fire, fire, as opposed to how big a hole you can make.”
Its a matter of energy content I struggle with.
Actually I’ve just looked it up and diesel is 10x as energy dense as TNT.
So actually, a small breaching charge and a petrol can sounds like it might actually work? Unless explosives are really heavy for a given volume? Dont look to be?

“Is it operational? How was it tested? Where is the evidence showing that a F-22s (as the only operational lpi aircraft) signals where used to pin down the exact position of the aircraft?”

“LPI” is like “Stealth”.
German aircraft in the Battle of Britain were modified (wing tips and such) to lessen the chain home radars effectiveness. Long before F117s and B2s.

I’d be deeply surprised if no one on any project but the F22 has tried to minimise the chances of the other guy locating radars, what with missiles designed to home in on them.

The Argies were messing about with their radars on the Falklands to try and throw off Shrike

February 16, 2013 10:46 am

F35 and low observable aircraft in general offer great advantages in some areas and that is traded off with less advantages in other areas. Shaping only helps in certain freq ranges hence why theyre looking at putting NGJ pod on f35 and other things to. Yes f35 has very capable radar and ECM suites but then other aircraft also have very capable radar and ECM equipment which will make f35s ability to achieve a long range missile hit perhaps just as difficult. F35s biggest hurdle will be against the big radars eg AWACS and ground based radars which is why simple aircraft against aircraft comparisons are more fantasy than reality. F35 was to deliver low observable characteristics with gd agility and low cost. The performance has gone down the cost have gone up with perhaps more surprises still to come, are they still acceptable in the low observable trade off or do people still want them? That’s up to the respective governments buying them.

Typhoon is very capable and most of the improvements in air to ground and enhanced sensors will appear by 2015 before f35 is operational or even finished testing. Typhoon could meet all the uks fastjet needs going fwd if we don’t need to land on a ship. Long term I see no appetite for another European fighter jet development in the 2030 timeframe but that may change so buying American and f35 will end up as the default option no matter if we like it or not.

February 16, 2013 11:39 am

I’m with Mark on that.
Unless we radically alter our military spending (buy more stuff) or military spending priorities (buy different stuff), Typhoon will be the mainstay of the UKs fighter fleet for the next thirty years.
As it stands, we will have maybe 50 F35s, more likely 40, against 150 Typhoons.

No arguement as to where the upgrade money will have the most effect.

February 16, 2013 11:44 am

I think that is incorrect.

What we’ll have is an initial block of F35 and then I think we’ll trickle buy more F35 as Typhoon airframes run out of hours or it becomes prohibitive to continue to upgrade them. I think we’ve seen the end of the traditional single production run and purchase.

February 16, 2013 12:03 pm

I think we will see our initial 48 F35 delivered in one large purchase and operating alongside around 150 Typhoon. Then any future purchases will most likely be a trickle buy of another 50ish F35 to primarily replace the older Typhoon’s between 2025 and 2030.

So by 2030 we will have roughly 100 of each airframe and the question will be whether to continue to overhaul and upgrade the remaining Typhoon’s or simply transition to an all F35 fleet.

That seems the most logical and likely path to me.

February 16, 2013 12:16 pm

We will have about 100 Typhoon plus the 48 FAA F35b. Then we will start to buy F35a to start replacing Typhoon at the start of next decade. And by 2030 we will end up with 100 F35x, perhaps a slightly larger pool of pilots, and the two tribes of maintainers (RAF/FAA). HMG will be hoping that UAV, PGM, and other technologies can save them the cost of a pilot and most of the maintainers. Barring WW3 methinks the FJ will go the way of the escort numbers wise in that they are too “costly” to build and man to have in great numbers.

February 16, 2013 3:29 pm

Yup to most of the above post 2030. So save now on the upgrades to get more F-35s? Or spend to upgrade and cover the gap for the Typhoons, then retire them? One is a safer option without a “capability gap”, the other gets you more planes in the long run faster. Interesting conundrum.

BTW the Brimstone stacked in 3 is on a rather common pylon known as the triple ejector rack, you can stack a lot of other stuff like that, main limit apparently is the weight of the individual bomb.

Mark, nice summary.

TrT, as opposed to the 10kg/40kg of the Brimstone/Skua, a ship launched harpoon carries a 220kg warhead. Lots more bang, but even so, target practice hulks have been known to take multiple harpoon hits without sinking. What they do however is to turn the ship into a floating box by tearing up everything inside it with the blast. Burning the ship down also does the same thing really, but more throughly.

February 16, 2013 4:46 pm

I must admit, I never really got the terminal flight path.

Surely it would make sense to hit at sea level? Whereas most appear to hit at, erm, the flight deck bit, drawn a blank on nautical terminology.

Youre going to do a lot more engineering type damage, and any holes in the ship are going to be closer to the water line?
Some sort of semi torpedo?
Although if it does hit the sea at speed its still going to fall apart

February 16, 2013 5:59 pm

” Whereas most appear to hit at, erm, the flight deck bit, ”

The deck?

TrT depends on what you want the missile to do. Remember what I said about what the Harpoon is supposed to do? Sink the ship? No. Mess up the electronics and weapons? Hell yes.

“Engineering type damage” is actually very hard to do, most driveshafts and engine blocks are solid pieces of metal, very very tough and blast resistant. So to make the ship useless, it’s easier to blow the sensitive parts to little pieces and start fires.

What you’re describing is probably close to the Cold War concept of the Mk 51(?) Sealance or the modern RUMs. Missile carries a torpedo and drops it into the sea. Usually used against subs only though. No reason why it can’t be used against ships too.

John Hartley
John Hartley
February 16, 2013 7:07 pm

Hang on whats that Sea Skua follow on I cannot pronounce FAGSW? 100kg class anti ship missile. Its going to be launched by Wildcat so why not F-35B too?

February 16, 2013 8:16 pm

@ McZ,

“Is it operational?”
— Yes. The Dutch seven provinces frigates have a system installed of this nature. There are a few others that I can’t remember off the top of my head. I believe Typhoons ECM pods have a variation of this system included. Any AESA (and I believe PESA) can also perform this function to some degree (over a limited arc). It’s claimed that the F-35’s radar has already been tested against an F-22 radar and was able to detect it and then jam it, but obviously we don’t know the details of what was tested or indeed the reliability of the claims.

“Where is the evidence showing that a F-22s (as the only operational lpi aircraft)…”
— Part of the problem is you seem to be confusing LPI with AESA. Like “stealth”, LPI is not one thing, but a series of measures that can reduce a radars likely hood of being detected. You can take one of the old mechanically scanned dish radars and with the right programming you can reduce the chances of its detection. There are ground, naval and airborne radars that all feature LPI measures. Perhaps we need a new phrase, one that’s less sensational, like Reduced Probability of Intercept (RPI)?

“So I don’t get, what the alternative would be?!”
— It’s a cat and mouse game. New techniques are being developed to beat LPI. New LPI techniques will be developed as counters, and so on and so forth until a new technology takes precedence.

“And long-range IR? It is dependent on imaging tech, and this is even easier to jam (low yield laser, intelligent heat source).”
— It’s by no means a silver bullet, but it is a usable weapon. It’s still going to put the target on the defensive and give you options.

@ TrT,
“The three missile rack is an interesting point, although I must assume that its not only brimstone that “could” do that.”
— As Observer said, weight and space will drive what weapons you can put on a triple rack. You’re not likely to have enough weight/room to triple rack Harpoon for example, it’s probably going to have to be some kind of Brimstone/Hellfire type weapon. Which really makes it more of a last ditch AShM than anything.

Sinking the ship isn’t the priority. Just putting it out of combat operation (for as long as possible) is. The best way to do that is fire, which likely means come sort of bizarre incendiary, blast, and fuel mixture in the warhead. If you think back to HMS Sheffield, the warhead didn’t even go off on the Exocet that hit her, but the burning fuel (combined with the fire main damage) did her in.

@ Mark,
“Yes f35 has very capable radar and ECM suites but then other aircraft also have very capable radar and ECM equipment which will make f35s ability to achieve a long range missile hit perhaps just as difficult. F35s biggest hurdle will be against the big radars eg AWACS and ground based radars which is why simple aircraft against aircraft comparisons are more fantasy than reality. F35 was to deliver low observable characteristics with gd agility and low cost. The performance has gone down the cost have gone up with perhaps more surprises still to come, are they still acceptable in the low observable trade off or do people still want them?”
— All of that. Signed. I’m working on a bit for TD, that I may just get round to finishing and send to him before the F-35 is retired from service, which basically centres around the points you’ve made there.

@ Phil,
“What we’ll have is an initial block of F35 and then I think we’ll trickle buy more F35 as Typhoon airframes run out of hours or it becomes prohibitive to continue to upgrade them”
— Sounds the most likely. If you have a line that long for all those customers then chances are slots will pop up along the way, or at the end of the run when most other customers have been served.

February 16, 2013 8:20 pm

Rather than worrying about each other, it’s this lot Typhoon and F35 should be worrying about. Don’t they wear big hats?

February 18, 2013 4:58 pm


No, I’m not confusing AESA and LPI. But I’m guessing, you seem to think of LPI as a – computationally relatively simple – signal reduction only thing.

I just mentioned the very real possibility, that you can use a fully integrated AESA sensor-ECM-suite to shape signals received by the enemy exactly as you like. And if you can do this, your adversary basically has as hard a nut to crack as security engineers trying to break encryption; without certainty you cannot properly evaluate a given set of signals.

So, we agree, it’s cat and mouse. But there is no indication that the mouse will eat the cat anytime soon.

What we will see is the devaluation of airborne command posts, as they become the weak link in the chain. The USAF will be rather fine out, as their space-based BMD sensors could do some targetting work.