Typhoon proves it's Air-Surface capability

This year has been extremely busy times for us at the Squadron.  Having taken delivery of our new Block 5 Aircraft in July 2007, over the past year we have been concentrating our training towards an air-surface capability whilst keeping proficient in the air-air role. 

With the Squadron combat ready as air-air pilots we have been working hard on getting pilots through the BSAM (basic surface attack module).  This included academic range work, which was carried out on the East coast ranges, and CAS (close air support) working with the British Army and Special Forces in employing weapons in close proximity of friendly forces.  All of the U.K based training was carried out “dry” dropping no weapons.  With the BSAM complete it was now time to carry out the North America detachments to prove that our aircraft, engineers and pilots were up to the job of dropping real weapons.

In April we deployed for our first Exercise at Davis Monthan USAF Base in Tucson, Arizona.  The seven Typhoons from XI Sqn arrived after a faultless trail a few hours ahead of schedule (that must be a first in itself) to the A-10 (Tank Buster) base just north of the Mexican border.  Over the two week exercise we concentrated predominantly on academic bombing and CAS, dropping 67 1000lb class weapons.  43 Paveway II bombs (laser guided), 8 enhanced Paveway II bombs (GPS guided) and 16 1000lb free fall dumb bombs.  We also carried out a number of the sorties with the A-10 aircraft helping us to develop our operating procedures.  The A-10 concentrates solely on CAS and their pilots are probably the most experienced CAS pilots in the world; this concentrated our minds somewhat as British pride was at stake!  All of the bombs hit their targets extremely accurately building confidence in the Typhoon as a bomber. 

After a successful Exercise at Davis Monthan the jets were flown up to Nellis AFB “Home of the Fighter Pilot” in fabulous Las Vegas.  With our livers and wallets still hurting from Tucson it was time to step up to the mark again and participate in Exercise Green Flag.  Green Flag is a joint USAF and Army exercise in which CAS for ground forces is a crucial element aimed at preparing air and ground forces for deployment to overseas operational areas.  It is played out in scenarios which simulate the sort of combat experienced in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As well as Typhoon, this exercise involved around 6500 US Army ground troops receiving their final training prior to deploying to Iraq, and a USAF F-16 unit.  Again the Exercise went incredibly well providing us with exceptional scenarios during which pilots had to make real time collateral damage estimates as well as carrying out convoy escorts and over watch duties.

The engineers did an outstanding job on both exercises. We lost only two sorties, one due to high wind and the other due to a technical failure.  The jets loved the hot and dry conditions of the desert but our engineers were working hard in the heat providing the Sqn with enough serviceable jets everyday and night to achieve our task.

The Typhoon force was declared air-surface combat ready on 1 July 2008 in the air-surface role.  These exercises have proven the aircraft, pilots and engineers are up to the job of Operations whenever we are called.  Gp Capt Atha (Stn Cdr RAF Coningsby) sums up our achievements below:

“We knew the Typhoon was a world beater in the air-air environment, but we weren’t sure about the air-surface capability.  Nevertheless you just have to look at the world today to see the relevance of an air-to-surface role, and why it is really important that this aircraft should have the air-surface capability.  Well we have done it.  The guys have demonstrated the capability, which is great news”

I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Flight Lieutenant Andy King
XI Squadron