|After months of negotiations the UK has signed the contract for the Tranche 3A Typhoon. The order of 40 Tranche 3A Typhoons represents 45% of the originally proposed number for this tranche and could be the last order placed by the UK as it has now fulfilled it’s contractual obligation. The option for a Tranche 3Border isn’t likely to be taken up due to the funding black hole in the MOD’s budget. This would leave the RAF with a total of 160 Typhoons but that number includes the 17 Sqn Typhoon that crashed in China Lake and the development airframes so the real number would be 155.
Over at RAF Coningsby the Tranche 3A Typhoons are a distant thought as they continue with the integration of the Tranche 2 Block 8 aircraft into the fleet. First starting in October 2008 with two airframes (serial numbers ZJ946 and ZJ947) assigned to 17(R) Squadron for their operational evaluation role more deliveries over the first half of 2009 has seen 3 Squadron start to equip with Block 8 airframes.
The first sortie of Monday 17th August was flown by 3 Squadron displayed this with three of the four airframes being Block 8 builds.
Both ZJ944 and ZJ945 are both missing their squadron markings and ZJ944 also doesn’t have a tail code but it’s ZJ950 that is the most interesting airframe for a couple reasons. The most obvious is the Maltese cross on the tail. For those who know their squadron markings they will have already worked out that this is the first airframe for 1435 Flight based at RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands. The Maltese cross is used by the flight as they were formed in Malta in 1941.
This airframe will be joined by three others and flown out to the Falkland Islands before the end of the year to replace the Tornado F3s that have been providing air defense since 1992. You may have also noticed that ZJ950 doesn’t have the PIRATE (Passive Infra-Red Airborne Track Equipment) IRST (Infrared Search and Track System) module mounted on the left hand side of the nose.
This raises two questions. Is this an F2 or a FGR4? Why doesn’t it have the PIRATE fitted?
I’m not aware of a definitive answer for either at the time of writing but I believe the airframe will still be classed as an FGR4 as it is built to Block 8 standard (FGR4 classification starting from Block 5). Why it doesn’t have the PIRATE is a more difficult question. It could be for two reasons, the first being that they don’t need it. 1435 Flight are tasked with air defense, a similar role to 3 Squadron based here in the UK. 3(F) Squadron still operates F2 variants of the Typhoon so the PIRATE doesn’t seem to be an important aspect to their role. The second reason maybe that the PIRATE is in short supply and the RAF are having to choose which airframes get it first.
The 1435 Flight Typhoons for the Falklands have departed. Read more…. Typhoons depart for the Falklands
A summary of Typhoon Tranches, Blocks and upgrades can be read here….. Eurofighter Typhoon, understanding the Tranches and Blocks
Typhoon PIRATE IRST visible as the black ball attached to the left hand side of the nose.