The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is accelerating its plans to arm the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoon jets with Brimstone air-to-surface missiles in the wake of the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq.
Undisclosed military sources were quoted by the Telegraph as saying that the UK’s campaign against IS has exposed a shortage of ground attack aircraft, which would get worse with the retirement of RAF’s ageing Tornado feet.
The Tornado GR4s are the only British fighters carrying Brimstone missile that can destroy moving vehicles with minimal collateral damage, but are scheduled to decommission in 2019.
Early this year, the MoD announced plans to integrate the missile into Typhoons by 2019 so as to enable them to take over ground attack duties from Tornados.
However, RAF chiefs are believed to have warned that the Iraqi mission is putting additional burden on its shrinking combat jets fleet and will soon interfere with their ability to deploy enough aircraft carrying the missiles.
While, the MoD is reportedly holding talks to streamline the installation, the defence analysts say Typhoon upgrade would still not be completed before 2017.
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory defence analyst Howard Wheeldon said: "It’s a pity this decision was not made a long time ago.
"Typhoon will not be fully air-to-ground capable until 2019, and that’s really too far out."
Even though the RAF took delivery of upgraded Typhoons that can drop Paveway IV guided bombs, the MoD is not considering their deployment to Iraq despite warnings that the seven or eight hour trip to bomb IS targets from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, will increase the wear and tear of the ageing Tornados.
A MoD spokesperson said: "We have already deployed a number of Tornado GR4s to support coalition operations against ISIL in Iraq.
"Whilst we constantly review our options, there are no plans to deploy Typhoon to Iraq as the GR4 provides the optimum capability for the operation.
"Although work is under way to evaluate the integration of Brimstone missiles with the Typhoon aircraft, no firm decisions have been made."
Manufactured by MBDA, Brimstone fire-and-forget missile is capable of engaging tanks, armoured vehicles and other fast-moving vehicles, bunkers, and naval vessels in all weather conditions.
Image: A UK Royal Air Force Typhoon jet in flight. Photo: courtesy of DrPete.