Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The British Royal Air Force is praising the weapons capabilities of the Eurofighter Typhoon, with the force calling 2018 the "Year of the Typhoon" as it ramps up its transition to the aircraft as its primary jet fighter.
The prediction by the Royal Air Force stems from weapons upgrades to the Typhoon, a twin-engine jet fighter assigned to the 41(R) Squadron, a Test and Evaluation Squadron based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
Upgrade work to the Typhoons is part of Project Centurion, an effort to improve the capabilities of the aircraft for the British fleet, for which the Typhoon is expected to be the primary weapon in the air.
The unit is the first to successfully test fire a Storm Shadow air-to-surface missile and a next generation Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air weapon, which will allow it to replace the RAF's Tornado aircraft. The Tornado's are scheduled to go out of service this year, according to BAE Systems, one of several companies that has worked together to develop the Typhoon.
The Storm Shadow is characterized as a low-observable, air-launched cruise missile that is primarily used against fortified positions and bunkers. The Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air weapon is deployed against multiple long range targets in a heavy electronic countermeasures environment, according to BAE Systems.
"We have had some great days in the office this year with starting the operational evaluation of Meteor and Storm Shadow capabilities and completing the firing campaigns of Brimstone," Andy Flynn, BAE Systems' Centurion and Eurofighter delivery director, said in a press release. "We have a big year ahead of us that will require us to ensure we make every day count."
The upgraded weapon systems will help to upgrade Royal Air Force Tornado squadrons to Typhoon squadrons. BAE says that only three RAF Tornado squadrons can fight with Storm Shadow missiles and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles, making the transition a potentially significant one.
"By the end of 2018 no other aircraft in the world will have all of the Typhoon's capabilities," said Gp Capt John Cunningham, who heads up Project Centurion.
"It will have the long-range air-to-air Meteor missile, Brimstone and Storm Shadow which can hit moving targets and underground structures, Paveway IV laser guided bombs, the Litening III targeting pod and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles," Cunningham said. "All this will come together by December 2018 making the next year the biggest game changer ever in the development of this aircraft."