The Eurofighter Typhoon is a family of aircraft with a number of different variants, many of which can be seen in service with the military forces of the world's major nations including Austria, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. The model most significant to the RAF however is the Typhoon FGR4, a plane that is currently in service throughout a number of squadrons in the United Kingdom.
The FGR4's history goes back as far as its the early nineties, with its initial testing in 1994 and eventual introduction in 2003. Since that time the FGR4 variant has demonstrated its versatility and high capability in handling a number of different roles including full-on combat, peacetime support, and policing of the air.
The RAF has a number of different multi-role jets including the Tornado GR4, but the Typhoon FGR4 is a slightly different beast whilst still being at least as versatile as its Tornado counterpart. Officially introduced in 2003 after nearly a decade of testing, the Eurofighter Typhoon family of aircraft was designed and manufactured by three companies - Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems , and Airbus Group - after the initial planning began way back in 1983.
The plane was designed for and indeed shows exceedingly impressive performance in dogfights, with many later variants also developing the aircraft's ability to excel in air-to-surface missions as well. The aircraft has also been involved in combat missions as recently as 2011 where its agility and all-round capability was demonstrated in the intervention in Libya.
The Typhoon FGR4 is a model that was derived from the Typhoon F2 - FGR4 title is given to all Typhoon aircraft that are part of the Block 5, with various "block" designations (such as Block 1, 2, 8, 10 etc.) indicating the different capabilities of the models in question. There are several blocks in the Typhoon series production, and these are split into Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 (the latter Tranche being the more updated aircraft and the former being the older models).
The FGR4 falls into Tranche 1, and its "Block 5" designation means that it has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities as well as Final Operation Capability (further explanation of this term to be found at Australian Air Force Website).
The Typhoon family of aircraft are all fifth-generation, with fully integrated and digital avionics and weapons systems. You will find that the FGR4 is capable of performing missions that involve air superiority, suppression of enemy air defences, close air support, maritime attack, and finally air interdiction. These are the five mission types the Typhoon was designed for, though its versatility means that it is likely capable of more.
While the RAF's Tornado GR4 has adjustable wing mechanics, the Eurofigher Typhoon has the Carnard delta wing configuration, fixed of course, though this doesn't make it any less versatile. Each of the Typhoon's engines in its twin-engine setup puts out 20,000 pounds of thrust. The thrust of the engines combined with the design of the aircraft results in a maximum speed of 1.8 Mach with a ceiling altitude of around 55,000 feet.
The Typhoon is a notably agile aircraft and performs exceedingly well at supersonic speeds as well as lower speeds, with a relaxed stability design that differs from aircraft with positive stability which needs to be trimmed. The aircraft has the ability to carry 8 air-to-air missiles: 6 medium-range and 2 short-range. There is an internal gun located on the starboard as well as 13 store stations.
The aircraft also has a range of sensors including the Euroradr CAPTOR Radar, an infrared search and track system, and AIS.
The hard points on the aircraft allows it to be armed with AMRAAM and ASRAAM, and the aircraft also possesses a Mauser 27mm cannon. The aircraft can also be fitted with the Meteor air-to-air missile as well as the Storm Shadow, Brimstone, and the small-diameter bomb.
Air-to-ground capability was not initially a feature of the earlier Typhoon aircraft, but the FGR4 is able to carry air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway IV and an enhanced Paveway II.
The most notable usage of the Typhoon FGR4 in actual operational combat was in Libya in 2011. Ten FGR4s were deployed to an RAF base in Italy where they were used for operations in Libya, amassing an impressive 4,500 flying hours before an engine change was required. During this conflict, the air-to-air capabilities of the aircraft were demonstrated as well as its air-to-ground capabilities in the form of laser-guided Paveway bombs.