The British Ministry of Defence yesterday declared that the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon multirole fighters are now cleared for precision air-to-ground operations, adding to their air defense role that began last year. “This new capability is an extra club in the RAF’s golf bag,” Air Chief Marshal Sir Clive Loader, commander in chief of RAF Air Command, said in the MOD’s statement. The aircraft are now able to deploy Paveway 2, Enhanced Paveway 2, and freefall 1,000-pound bombs, if called upon, the MOD said. They carry the Litening targeting pod and pilots can share imagery from the pods with forward air controllers via the ROVER communications system that is already in wide use with US forces. The go-ahead for the ground-attack mission came after seven Typhoons from XI Squadron, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, Britain, demonstrated the aircraft’s capabilities at the two-week Green Flag exercise that began May 23 at Nellis AFB, Nev. For now, whether a Typhoon executes an air-to-air or air-to-ground mission must be decided prior to takeoff. Eventually the aircraft will be able to alternate between roles during the same mission once airborne. The MOD said there are no plans at present to deploy Typhoons to Afghanistan or Iraq.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.