Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 11:17 UK

Eurofighter 'fully combat ready'


Wing Commander Gav Parker shows off the 'jet for the Nintendo generation'

The RAF has declared the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft capable of carrying out ground attacks, as well as its original air defence role.

The hi-tech fighter jets, costing 67m each, have been upgraded and training exercises have been taking place.

Critics say the Typhoon is an outdated Cold War weapon, unsuitable for modern wars against terrorists and insurgents.

But the RAF says the upgrade means the fighter will be able to operate more effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt says the need for a operationally flexible aircraft has been highlighted by current operations where battles are fought against a mobile enemy without an air force.

This is not yet Afghanistan - it's the Nevada desert and an excercise called Green Flag West

The new equipment fitted to the Typhoon includes a laser designator pod which enables data to be downloaded to laptop style devices held by forward air controllers on the ground.

By seeing exactly what is coming through the Typhoon's pod the controllers can guide a pilot onto the target, which can then be destroyed with pinpoint accuracy.

The RAF describes the improved Typhoon as "a new generation of aircraft" with technology that increases the amount of information available to the pilot.

Commander-in-Chief of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Clive Loader said: "The declaration of Typhoon being multi-role capable is a truly significant step in the development of this remarkable aircraft.

'Agile, adaptable, capable'

"This latest capability upgrade gives the Royal Air Force the most operationally flexible aircraft it has ever had."

Training exercises have been taking place in the US from the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Speaking from Nellis, Group Captain Stuart Atha, Station Commander of RAF Coningsby, where the planes are based, said: "What we have in Typhoon is a world-beating aircraft.

"The mantra in the RAF is, 'agile, adaptable and capable' and that is precisely what this aircraft is."

The RAF has ordered 144 Typhoons, which can accelerate from standing to take-off in under seven seconds.

And anyone who believes that we will only ever fight insurgents is wrong - there is always the risk that one day we will face a sophisticated enemy again
Paul Beaver

So far, nearly 140 have been built by a consortium of European firms - EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems - although there have been international rows over the project, with France pulling out to develop its own aircraft.

The aircraft were originally conceived during the 1970s to combat fast and sophisticated Soviet fighter jets.

Since then the enemy has changed - and with Britain's armed forces increasingly engaged in a ground-based counter-insurgency role, some critics have questioned the Typhoon's relevance to modern warfare.

Independent defence expert Paul Beaver believes that that aircraft is "much maligned".

He said: "The new equipment, such as laser-guided bombs used with satellite technology, makes the Typhoon an effective ground-attack aircraft, particularly when used in conjunction with helicopters.

"And anyone who believes that we will only ever fight insurgents is wrong - there is always the risk that one day we will face a sophisticated enemy again."

First RAF Eurofighters completed
30 Oct 07 |  Lancashire

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