In the late 1980s, the Pavania Tornado was entering widespread service with the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Saudi Air Force, and Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force). Despite this, the British, Germans, and Italians were seeking to create the next-generation tactical jet. Sure, the Tornado was good, but it wasn’t quite what they wanted.
The Tornado proved capable in both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles, but the same airframe couldn’t do both. Some Tornados were configured as fighters — mostly within the Royal Air Force and a few within the Royal Saudi Air Force — but most were tuned for attacking ground targets or ships. A few were configured primarily for hunting enemy air defenses, too, but switching between those roles wasn’t easy.
Two Panavia Tornados take off. In front is the GR.1; the F.2 behind it. These were single-mission aircraft, despite sharing many common parts.
And so began the mission to design a plane with greater versatility. Like the Tornado, this new plane was to be a twin-engine tactical jet. Unlike the Tornado, this plane had room only for a single a pilot and it could handle air-to-air and air-to-ground missions on the same airframe.
That plane is the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Typhoon has a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 1,802 miles. It carries a wide variety of air-to-air armaments and it first flew in 1994. It took nine years of test flights to work out the bugs but, in 2003, Germany and Spain brought the plane into service. Italy and the United Kingdom soon followed suit.
The multirole capabilities of the Typhoon are evident in this photo.
(Photo by Ronnie Macdonald)
To date, the Typhoon has been a bigger success on the export market than the Tornado. Saudi Arabia (which bought the air-to-air and ground-attack versions of the Tornado) bought Typhoons, but so has Kuwait, Austria, Oman, and Qatar, with other countries considering this lethal multirole fighter.
Learn more about this fast, agile, and versatile combat jet in the video below!