UK To Retire Eurofighter Typhoon, Puma Helo And C-130J Aircraft

The UK will retire its Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons, Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports and Airbus Helicopters Puma HC2 rotorcraft by the middle of this decade, as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) targets a range of capability updates.

Having earlier intended to retain 24 of its earlier Tranche 1 Typhoons out to 2040, the UK will now retire them in 2025.

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to axe its fleet of Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, just six years after extending their out-of-service date to 2040 in…

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to axe its fleet of Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, just six years after extending their out-of-service date to 2040 in line with the rest of the fleet.

The Defence Command Paper published on 22 March said that the Tranche 1 jets that were earmarked for retirement by 2019, but of which a number were retained in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) out to 2040, will instead now be retired from 2025.

“The Royal Air Force will retire equipment that has increasingly limited utility in the digital and future operating environment,” the paper said. “This will include rationalising older fleets to improve efficiency, retiring Typhoon Tranche 1 by 2025.”

The RAF has received 53 Tranche 1, 67 Tranche 2, and 40 Tranche 3 Typhoons for a total of 160 aircraft (although by the time 29 of the Tranche 1s had been retired, the service would field a force of 131 Typhoons). The life extension for 24 Tranche 1 jets announced at SDSR 2015 was part of a wider Typhoon life extension from 2030 to 2040.

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While these earlier jets are limited to the air defence role due primarily to software limitations, their continued operation has freed up the more advanced Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 aircraft for multirole operations, at the same time as providing ‘Aggressor’ training services to the wider UK armed forces.

“The issue was how to operate the Tranche 1 alongside the Tranche 2 and 3 as there is very little spares commonality between them, so it was decided that the plan [should be] for two new squadrons of Tranche 1 Typhoons,” AM Bagwell said.

An RAF Typhoon from 3 Sqn takes off from JBLE during the Trilateral exercise (photo by Jonathan Derden)

Given the software limitations of the T1, the RAF has decided not to try and upgrade these particular platforms with the Phase Enhancement upgrade packages that will afford the T2 and T3 platforms with the full swing-role capability set. As such, they will be used solely for air defence duties, and perhaps for adversarial air combat training for other RAF aircraft types.

“The Tranche 1s will be used purely for air defence, as an upgrade [for swing-role] will be prohibitively expensive. The two squadrons of Tranche 1 Typhoons will own the air defence role, and we are also looking at using them for ‘red air’ along with the Hawk,” AM Bagwell noted.

The UK bases its Typhoons at RAF Coningsby in England (Quick reaction Alert [QRA] South) and at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (QRA North). It also has a detachment of four air defence aircraft permanently stationed in the Falkland Islands.

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