From fighter to bomber, this is how Italian Air Force Typhoon has evolved

Italian Eurofighter multirole Swing Role
Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons in Swing Role configuration. They are loaded with
IRIS-T short-range missiles, AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range missiles and Paveway II
precision-guided bombs.

In February, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) posted some rare photos showing its Eurofighter Typhoons in Swing Role configuration, i.e. equipped with a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. In detail, they carry IRIS-T short-range missiles, AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range missiles, Paveway II precision-guided bombs as well as the Litening advanced targeting pod.

This image proves how the Eurofighter, born as an air superiority fighter, has evolved over the years into a modern multirole platform capable of effectively performing air-to-ground and reconnaissance missions. Although other nations, such as the UK, have long used the Typhoon in a mixed role, this marks a major change for the Italian Air Force.

Since its entry into the Italian Air Force fleet in 2004, the Typhoon has exclusively covered the role of interceptor fighter until a few years ago, when the armed force revised its strategy. It moved from the concept of the single-role aircraft to the multi-role one. The first changes occurred with the entry into service of the new F-35. Although the F-35 was acquired by Italy to replace the Tornado and AMX ground attack/reconnaissance aircraft, the nation has since the beginning included the Lightning II in the national air defense service.

Another sign of change came in early 2019, when the Italian Air Force announced that it had sent its Eurofighters to the operational theater in Kuwait to replace AMX aircraft in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance) missions. A few months later, the service shared details regarding the new operational conversion course for Eurofighter pilots focused on Swing Role.

More recently, during the delivery to Italy of the final and most advanced Eurofighter by Leonardo SpA, the Italian Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Alberto Rosso, confirmed that "The aircraft has proven to be a reliable, flexible, and versatile asset, and is ready to face new technological challenges to continue to guarantee the highest level of safety across the Italian skies and protection of national interest. This is thanks to a wide range of operational capabilities which complement air defence duties such as Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance and attack."

The advanced Eurofighter was assigned to the 51° Stormo (51st Wing), a unit specialized in reconnaissance and tactical support activities, which with its AMX jets has scored the highest number of missions in operational theaters abroad.

Italian Eurofighter multirole Swing Role

With the cuts made by the Italian government to the budget for new combat aircraft, it has now become essential for the Italian Air Force to operate multi-role aircraft, capable of optimally performing multiple types of missions. In recent months, it has also shown images of its F-35s in Beast Mode configuration, loaded with the same air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons recently carried by the Typhoons. It confirms how the two types can be interchangeable.

However, the evolution of the Typhoon is not over. In the future, under the LTE (Long Term Evolution) program, the Eurofighter will receive further updates that will allow it to also perform Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions. The Italian Air Force will thus be able to consider using the Typhoon to replace the current Tornado ECR in its "key and elite" role.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: Italian Air Force

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