41(R) TEST AND EVALUATION SQN TAKE P1E(B) ON HIGHRIDER
BOOM! 41(R) TES have just completed Exercise HIGHRIDER!
‘HIGHRIDER’ is the codename given to the Air Warfare Centre flying trials conducted in the USA. On 21 Sep 14, for the second time this year, 41(R) Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) Typhoon Flight deployed on ‘HIGHRIDER’, this time for an 11 week period. The purpose of the deployment was to test the latest standard of Typhoon; the Tranche 2 aircraft known as ‘Phase One Enhancement(b) or P1E(b) for short. This standard of aircraft makes significant improvements to the Air-to-Surface integration, introduces a Paveway 4 (P4) capability and includes use of the Helmet Mounted Sight System for Air-to-Surface tasks. There have also been improvements in Air-to-Air functionality, Displays and Controls and an update to the aircraft’s datalink capabilities.
The HIGHRIDER trail flew from RAF Coningsby with 4 P1E(b) Single-seat FGR4 Typhoons and met with a Voyager tanker from RAF Brize Norton. Due to the increased fuel capacity of the Voyager tanker, the aircraft were able to fly in formation all the way to St. Johns in Canada which was over 6 hours of flying time with 6 re-fuelling brackets for each Typhoon. After the lengthy leg over the Atlantic, a night stop at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) and a further stop at Ohio to clear customs, the 4 Typhoons arrived at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Californian high desert on 23 September. Compared to the one month delay that the Typhoon Flight endured on the Spring HIGHRIDER due to sea state and tanker availability, it was great to arrive early at our destination! Historically, this is a relatively rare achievement for a trail but maybe, with the improved serviceability of the new Voyager tanker and Typhoon aircraft, it may be something that happens regularly in the future – time will tell!
Whilst at China Lake, the P1E(b) aircraft conducted numerous trials. These included a trial of the Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) against simulated surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), a datalink interoperability trial with the F-35 Lightning II, 4 AMRAAM firings at the Pacific coast range at NAS Point Magu and a full evaluation of the Paveway 4 (P4). A total of 19 live weapon releases were carried out successfully, the last of which was a simultaneous release of 4 P4s that directly hit 4 separate targets at once.
After the 6 weeks of testing were completed at China Lake, the aircraft moved to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was an opportunity to evaluate Typhoon in a representative operational scenario using the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) integrated with the United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES). 422 TES is the USAF equivalent of 41(R) TES albeit on a slightly larger scale! It operates A/OA-10 Warthog, F-15C Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16CM Viper, F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II and all of these types were flown with the Typhoons on missions that included Close Air Support, Offensive Counter Air and Self-Escort Strike missions. ‘Red Air’ opposition fighters were provided by the Nellis based 64th Aggressor Squadron and a National Guard F-16 Squadron from Texas. Surface threats simulated Integrated Air Defense Systems and included multiple simulated SAM systems from around the world. More P4 bombs were dropped during these sorties as the aircraft was thoroughly tested in high intensity full-scale air war scenarios.
As this edition goes to print, the Typhoon Flight are still away abroad but very much looking forward to arriving home prior to Christmas!