ABU DHABI — Typhoon combat jets flown by the Royal Saudi Air Force have used Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to strike Islamic State terrorists, marking the first time the weapon has been launched in anger from the Eurofighter-built aircraft, according to gulf region sources.
The Raytheon-developed weapon was only recently cleared for service on Typhoon. The missile is fitted to Royal Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoons, but only the gulf nation has deployed the jet against ISIS targets.
The strikes by the Saudis come little more than a year after the US State Department lifted a long-time block on the gulf state purchasing the weapon. No reason was ever given publicly on why export approval was denied.
Paveway IV was co-developed by the British and US arms of Raytheon.
Raytheon declined to comment.
So far, Saudi Arabia is the only known export customer for Paveway IV, although Oman may follow suit as it has also ordered the Eurofighter jet.
Saudi Arabia ordered 72 Typhoons in a deal with BAE Systems in 2007 and over half the aircraft have been delivered.
BAE is part of the Eurofighter consortium, which manages the industry effort to build the Typhoon. Airbus Defence & Space and Finmeccanica are the other partners.
The British operate Tornado jets over Iraq fitted with the advanced 500-pound Paveway IV and other precision weapons.
British Typhoons have not been deployed to the region as part of the coalition effort to degrade ISIS forces, predominantly because the aircraft is unable to use the MBDA Brimstone missile, which has become a key asset to attack fast moving targets with reduced risk of collateral damage due to the combination of high accuracy and a small warhead compared with precision-guided bombs.
The British government and its Typhoon partners Germany, Italy and Spain moved to resolve that problem this week, announcing at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi a £72 million deal to integrate Brimstone on Typhoon by 2017.
British Typhoon pilots have been practicing using the Paveway IV weapon, though. The RAF recently took part in the Red Flag exercises in Nevada, where up to 20 of the bombs were dropped.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.