Saturday, January 28, 2023

Eurofighter Typhoons To Be Armed With Brimstone Missiles; British Royal Air Force To Help Spain With Integration

The Spanish Air Force has reportedly decided to equip its Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets with the MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missile, a senior officer announced on December 13.  

Typhoons are manufactured by an industrial consortium of BAE Systems, Airbus Company, and Leonardo, while Brimstone missiles are manufactured by MBDA, the European missile group of the same three companies.

The decision to equip the Eurofighter with the low-yield missile was made in recent days, according to the 14th Wing Air Group chief Lieutenant Colonel Jesus Salazar Ortiz de Landazuri at Albacete air base on December 13.

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The new armament will be introduced by 141 Sqn after the work of the Spanish air force’s operational evaluation unit in Madrid is completed. The frontline squadron will then undertake its evaluation and establish tactics, techniques, and procedures for use, according to Ortiz de Landazuri.

Eurofighter on the Canary Islands

The first missiles are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023. However, the deal for procuring and integrating the Brimstone air-to-surface missile from MBDA has not yet been finalized. 

“We [at Ala 14] were told less than a month ago, and so we don’t even know yet which version of the Brimstone we are to get,” the commander said.

He continued by saying that the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), which already outfits its Eurofighter Typhoons with the Brimstone, will help the Spanish Air Force with its integration efforts. 

MBDA confirmed the selection but refused to say further until a contract with Madrid is inked. Brimstones are launched from three-round rail launchers located beneath the wing of the Eurofighter.

Brimstone air-to-surface missiles
Brimstone air-to-surface missiles

Eurofighter Typhoon Fleet Of Spain

Brimstone is an air-launched ground-attack missile developed by MBDA specifically designed to strike enemy armor formations. The Brimstone launcher can carry three missiles at a single weapon station. 

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In March 2018, the United Kingdom awarded MBDA a £400 million contract to manufacture Brimstone air-to-surface missiles to extend their service life beyond 2030 and incorporate the weapons system on RAF Typhoons.

Spain’s air force operates the Typhoon from the air bases of Morón (11th Wing) and Albacete (14th Wing). These fighter jets aim to protect Spanish territory and play a critical role at NATO in various air policing missions in the Baltics and Black sea. 

Furthermore, in June 2022, Spain signed an agreement to purchase an additional 20 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for €2.043 billion ($2.15 billion) to replace a batch of F-18s flown by the nation’s air force.

The procurement, which includes the aircraft, engines, a simulator, and the necessary support services, was authorized by Spain’s Council of Ministers on December 14, 2021. Deliveries are expected to start in 2026, bringing Spain’s fleet of Eurofighters up to 90 aircraft. 

That being said, the inclusion of Brimstone air-to-surface will significantly enhance the precision attack capabilities of the Spanish Air Force. Furthermore, it will provide the Eurofighter Typhoon with an all-weather capability to attack small and mobile ground targets.

In addition to carrying MBDA Meteor or Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM and Diehl Defense IRIS-T air-to-air missiles, the Spanish Air Force’s Eurofighters are presently equipped with GBU-10 907-kilogram (2,000lb) and GBU/EGBU-16 453-kilogram precision-guided bombs.

Brimstone missiles
Dual Mode Brimstone air-to-surface missiles carried by a Reaper UAS. A Brimstone training missile is on the left. Image: MBDA

The Brimstone missile employs a tandem shaped-charge warhead, which makes it more effective against modernized tanks than similar weapons such as the AGM-65G Maverick. A smaller initial charge activates reactive armor, followed by a bigger one designed to pierce the base armor.

The UK’s Tornado squadrons have utilized Brimstone on operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria as part of Operation Shader. The missile was put into service in 2005. After testing a dual-mode model in Afghanistan, laser navigation was added in 2008.

In February 2019, a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fired a Brimstone missile to attack an Islamic State boat in Syria. This was the aircraft’s first use of the weapon system. 

When targets are out of the aircraft’s line of sight, an indirect targeting fire-and-forget mode is employed. The missile is pre-programmed to scan a particular area to locate, track, and destroy any vehicles that fall within a predetermined “kill box.”

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