FARNBOROUGH, England — As it seeks to turn the Eurofighter into a truly multi-role aircraft, BAE Systems is in the middle of testing a host of new armaments for the aircraft and plans to adopt the new MBDA Spear standoff weapon, officials said at the Farnborough International Airshow on Wednesday.
Following integration of the Paveway IV, the first powered release of a Storm Shadow missile has now taken place, while six releases of the Meteor air-to-air missile have occurred, with air forces due to start using it early next year, said Paul Smith, an air crew adviser at BAE Systems.
Flight testing with the Brimstone missile began recently, with air forces set to start using the missile in early 2018, he said.
The developments are underway as the British Royal Air Force uses the Eurofighter for close-air support in Syria and as all four original Eurofighter partner nations use the aircraft for air policing in the Baltics to handle airspace incursions by Russian aircraft.
During his presentation at the air show, Smith said that plans were being discussed to incorporate the new Spear missile on the Eurofighter as well as the Marte ER, MBDA's anti-ship missile that has a 100-kilometer range and is an evolution of the Marte Mk2, now used on NH90 and AW101 helicopters.
The Striker II helmet developed by BAE, which incorporates night vision capability to avoid the need for night vision goggles, will start high definition color trials later this year, said Smith.
Plans are also underway to give the Eurofighter more bandwidth to allow it to become a control hub for UCAVs, turning the pilot into a "battle space manager," Smith said.
Smith said development work was also continuing on the electronically scanned Captor-E radar being developed by the four Eurofighter partners for the aircraft.
In November 2014, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain signed a €1 billion (US $1.1 billion) development and integration contract for the radar, but have yet to sign a production contract.
At the time, BAE said a developmental version of the radar was expected to make its first flight with the radar transmitting toward the end of the second quarter of 2015.
That has yet to take place, and Smith said it would happen "in the near term."
Fuselage and missiles of a Eurofighter Typhoon model aircraft, manufactured in collaboration with Britain, Germany, Spain and France, is shown at the Dubai Airshow on Nov. 24, 2005.
Photo Credit: Haider Shah/AFP via Getty Images
In the meantime, Kuwait's contract to buy 28 Eurofighters does involve acquisition of the Captor-E, meaning the Gulf state will be the first air force to use the radar.
A BAE spokesman said that deliveries to Kuwait would start in 2019 or 2020, meaning the radar must be ready by then, while retrofits of the radar into the Eurofighters of the European partner nations would occur from 2020 to 2022.
An entry-into-service version of the radar "will do what the mechanical radar it is replacing does, meaning the pilot will choose the mode," the spokesman said. "In 2022, we will have the true multitasking version."
A slide at the Eurofighter presentation Wednesday mentioned giving the Captor-E electronic attack capability, but Smith declined to discuss what work BAE was carrying out.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.