The first of the five block 5 Eurofighter Typhoons ordered for the Italian Air Force has entered into service. All five aircraft will be delivered this year, as part of 29 aircraft tranche 1 production series, envisaged for the Italian Air Force. Block 5 Typhoon represents the final standard of the tranche 1, as well as additional features of the initial configuration of the second production batch, whose deliveries are planned starting from 2008. Later on, this standard will be implemented in all Italian Air Force Typhoons. Currently two aircraft are undergoing retrofit at Alenia Aeronautica’s Caselle plant, the first aircraft is slated for delivery by the first quarter of 2008.
It is the first Typhoon to be equipped with the “Pirate”, passive, infrared search and track system made by a consortium of companies led by Galileo Avionica, a Finmeccanica company. The Pirate (Passive Infra-Red Airborne Tracking Equipment) combines the functions of the FLIR infra-red system (Forward Looking Infra-Red) and of the IRST system (Infra Red Search and Track), able to search, detect and track potential targets. The system operates in a passive mode, without emitting signals which might reveal the aircraft’s presence.
Galileo Avionica is the prime contractor of the EuroFirst Consortium which also includes Thales in the UK and Tecnobit in Spain. In 2006, the consortium was awarded with a contract valued around 200 million euros to supply 200 PIRATE systems for the some Tranch 1 and Tranche 2 Eurofighter Typhoons.
Other improvements associated with Block 5 includes the installation of an Instrumental Landing System (ILS) for all visibility conditions landings and the Enhanced Weapon Training Facility, offering an integrated training system built into the aircraft cockpit, providing the pilot with the simulated presence and operation of external loads such as weapons and stores, such as air-to-air missiles, or guided weapons, without actually carrying or dropping the hardware.
The new version fully utilizes the Typhoon’s digital flight controls system, hence improving maximum load flight envelope to 9g at subsonic speed and up to 7 g for the supersonic speed.
In the air-to-air mode, the new Block introduces evolved integration of the new-generation air-to-air ASRAAM missile. The aircraft radar now offers air-to-ground functionality and the aircraft is cleared to carry and drop laser guided weapons, including GBU-10 and 16 Paveway II. However, this capability has not been fielded yet with the new Italian Air Force Typhoons.