ABU DHABI — The Typhoon combat jet will receive a £165 million makeover with a new package of enhancements that will include integration of the Brimstone 2 missile, representatives of the four-nation program announced on the opening day of the IDEX defense show on Sunday.
The single largest part of the package is the £72 million deal with BAE Systems to complete integration of MBDA's air-to-ground Brimstone 2, which has already won plaudits for its ability to strike small fast-moving targets with low collateral damage during missions in Afghanistan, Libya and now Iraq.
The dual-mode seeker weapon is already installed on Royal Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force Tornado strike jets, but with the jet due to be taken out of service no later than 2019, Brimstone's combination of lethality and low collateral damage would have been lost on piloted aircraft without the integration order.
The deal for what is known as Phase 3 Capability Enhancement (PE3) also includes software tweaks to the aircraft to enhance which enhances the capabilities of the Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Meteor and ASRAAM missile either already integrated on the jet or in the process of being married to the airframe.
Typhoon jets have recently become operational with new capabilities in what is known as the Phase 1 Enhancement Package. Phase 2 enhancement work is already underway adding improvements like the Storm Shadow and Meteor missiles.
British Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne, who was at the signing ceremony, told reporters the Brimstone helps make the combat jet a more attractive proposition in the export market and "provided increased confidence in the multi-role capability of Typhoon."
Completion of PE3 is scheduled for 2017 — two years before the Tornado jets ahead of the current date envisaged for the Tornado jet that the RAF currently deploys the weapon to go out of service.
Doug Barrie, the senior air analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said "the Tornado fleet's withdrawal by 2019 leaves the Typhoon as the UK's multi-role combat aircraft until the F-35 is available in adequate numbers. The accuracy of Brimstone 2, coupled with its comparatively small warhead, makes it particularly suitable where collateral damage is a concern."
The initial fit for Brimstone 2 will give Typhoon the ability to carrying six of the dual-mode sensor weapons on two outboard pylons along with other air-to-air and air-to-grounds missiles.
BAE Systems has already been working on an initial phase of Brimstone integration under a £5 million deal awarded by the British Ministry of Defence last year.
In a statement, Eurofighter said that with the latest round of improvements agreed it was already in the definition phase of a fourth package of enhancements expected to include the integration of an E-Scan radar being developed by the Selex ES led Euroradar consortium and an anti-fast inshore attack craft capability delivered by Brimstone 2.
With most of their prospective export clients on the doorstep of IDEX, it was little surprise Eurofighter used the show to trumpet the increase in the jet's armory.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are all in the hunt for combat jets in competitions that which have attracted the attention of fighter makers from the US and Europe scrambling for work to maintain production lines threatened by the looming presence of Lockheed Martin's F-35.
The Typhoon has already been sold to regional export customers Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Qatar could be the first to declare its hand on selection of a new fighter. A second industry executive said a decision could come sometime in the third quarter of this year.
In the wake of France landing its first export order for Dassault's Rafale last week with an Egyptian deal for 24 aircraft, Reuters reported that the jet maker was also in the final stages of negotiations to sell 36 fighters to Qatar. The story drew a denial from the French government.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.