MBDA BRIMSTONE AIR-TO-SURFACE MISSILE INTEGRATION FLIGHT TRIALS CONTINUE FOR RAF EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON

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The trials are part of ongoing development of Project Centurion, RAF enhancement programme aimed to integrate the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile, the MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missile and the Meteor BVRAAM into its Eurofighter Typhoon force

Further series of flight trials of Eurofighter Typhoon with the low-collateral, high precision MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface weapon have been successfully completed at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire, the company explained in a recent press release.

Conducted using the UK Typhoon Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 6, the trials were part of work to gather air data on the weapon, measure environmental effects and expand the carriage envelope.

Firing trials are now scheduled for later this year.

The flight trials programme for Brimstone is running alongside ongoing Typhoon development programmes with the Meteor and Storm Shadow weapons, which form part of the aircraft’s Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) package due to be delivered into service in 2018.

Brimstone is an air-launched ground attack missile specifically developed by MBDA for Royal Air Force. It was originally intended for “fire-and-forget” use against mass formations of enemy armour, using a millimetric wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker to ensure accuracy even against moving targets. Experience in Afghanistan led to the addition of laser guidance in the dual-mode Brimstone missile, allowing a “spotter” to pick out specific targets when friendly forces or civilians were in the area. The tandem shaped charge warhead is much more effective against modern tanks than older similar weapons such as the AGM-65G Maverick, while the small blast area minimises collateral damage. Three Brimstones are carried on a launcher that occupies a single weapon station, allowing a single aircraft to carry many missiles.

40 trials to integrate Brimstone with Typhoon have seen the aircraft flown with four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, two Paveway IV laser guided/GPS bombs and two launchers each containing three Brimstone missiles. Eight of the 40 flights have been carried out through a Combined Testing Team (CTT) approach with pilots from the Royal Air Force (RAF) 41(R) Squadron (which actually is RAF’s Test and Evaluation Squadron).

The CTT approach is designed to allow 41(R) Squadron to take part in early versions of planned upgrades, providing feedback that can be assessed and directly worked back into the design process, ensuring an end product which meets RAF requirements.

Steve Formoso, Chief Test Pilot for BAE Systems Military Air & Information business, explained that “This series of flight trials has included Aero Data Gathering (ADG) flights to test how the addition of the Brimstone weapon and other assets interacts with the aircraft’s flight control system software. The results have been excellent, with the pilot maintaining manoeuvrability whilst carrying a heavy weapons load. The detailed results of these trials will now be analysed and further testing carried out ahead of firing trials. The low-collateral Brimstone will provide the Typhoon pilot with the ability to precisely attack fast-moving targets at range, further enhancing the aircraft’s already potent air-to-surface capabilities.”

James McLaughlin, BAE Systems’ Contract Delivery Manager for Typhoon Phase 3 Enhancements, added: “This continues to be an incredibly productive time for Typhoon development and the benefits of the Combined Testing Team approach are clearly visible. The dedicated work of our teams and partner companies has ensured we have been able to conduct a large number of flight trials in a short space of time, involve the Royal Air Force within the process and reach an important milestone on the Brimstone integration programme.”

Noteworthy the trials are part of ongoing development work on the Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) package for Typhoon, which will also deliver further sensor and mission system upgrades as part of Project Centurion.

Project Centurion is a RAF enhancement programme that aims to integrate the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile, the MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missile and the Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) into its Eurofighter Typhoon force. The programme has set a target of Dec. 2018 to seamlessly integrate the weapons and capability of the Panavia Tornado GR4 fleet before they go out of service in 2019.

The first phase of Project Centurion’s package of enhancements had entered the operational evaluation stage in Oct. 2016.

Photo credit: Crown Copyright