Luftwaffe Eurofighters – now ready to go at any time
13 Jun 2008
Since 3 June, Eurofighter combat aircraft of Fighter Wing 74 (JG 74) at Neuburg have officially been on constant alert for air policing tasks in the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) role. From Thursday, 12 June they have replaced the F-4F Phantom II aircraft deployed up to now, which have been decommissioned at JG 74 with a formal ceremony held at the base. A further important step in the process of bringing the new weapon system Eurofighter into service with the German Air Force has thus been taken, EADS Defence & Security, a partner in the Eurofighter programme, has announced.
Since the first Eurofighters landed in Neuburg on 25 July 2006, flight operations at JG 74 have increasingly been transferred to these new fourth-generation combat aircraft. From January 2008, this constant readiness has been successfully put to the test by deploying operational QRA formations.
A QRA formation consists of two armed aircraft which, in the event of an alert, can be in the air within just a few minutes – thus complying with the reaction times laid down by NATO. These aircraft can be on station for an air policing assignment within an extremely short time, being ready for takeoff around the clock. JG 74 is responsible for air surveillance and security tasks in the Federal Republic of Germany's southern airspace, including the sectors bordering Austria and Switzerland.
Eurofighter is particularly suitable for such assignments, being specially designed for quick reaction tasks. The takeoff distance prescribed for aircraft in the air policing configuration is a mere 300 metres. Eurofighter's powerful engines can take the aircraft to an altitude of roughly 39,000 feet – and thus above civil flight levels – in just 90 seconds. Its sensors with data processing directly in the cockpit provide the pilot with a constant comprehensive overview of wide areas of the surrounding airspace. The situation picture is complemented by data links from Eurofighter to other military aircraft and ground radar stations. Through the Eurofighter system, the pilot is able to detect and identify manned and unmanned aircraft by day and night in all weathers and operational conditions and at all altitudes, and in an air emergency – due for example to failure of the intercepted aircraft's on-board navigation and radio systems – provide such an aircraft with assistance or escort it to a designated airfield.
Four of the five nations deploying the aircraft up to now have already set up Eurofighter QRA formations. In late 2005, for example, Italy integrated the aircraft into its air defences, thus securing its airspace through Eurofighter flight operations, starting with the 2006 Winter Olympics. The United Kingdom started to deploy Eurofighter permanently in this role in July 2007. Since the present month, also Germany and Austria have begun using the aircraft to secure their airspace. Spain is currently preparing to deploy its Eurofighters on air policing assignments in the near future.