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Duxford’s new Typhoon reports on the unveiling of the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) most up-to-date exhibit, the Eurofighter Typhoon.


Typhoon DA4 in the AirSpace conservation area. Key - Gary Parsons

Thursday June 18 saw the IWM unveil its latest exhibit, Eurofighter’s Typhoon, at Duxford. The type has only been in service with the Royal Air Force for five years, although prototypes first took to the air some fifteen years ago. Duxford’s example is one of those early aircraft, being Development Aircraft 4 (DA4) ZH590, a British-built two-seater used by BAE Systems at Warton in Lancashire.

DA4’s maiden flight was on March 14, 1997 with test pilot Derek Reeh at the controls. It was the first British two-seater and also the first British-built aircraft with the EJ200 powerplant. It was used for two-seat handling, radar development and integration trials until retirement in 2006. A Royal Air Force crew flew the aeroplane for the first time in April 1998, and that year it flew in formation with the Red Arrows at RAF Fairford’s Royal International Air Tattoo.

In June 2000 DA4 completed the first successful night flight by a two-seat Typhoon, pilot Keith Hartley flying the aircraft with Craig Penrice in the rear seat. A major refit in 2001 saw all the major systems of the aircraft upgraded, followed by Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) integration, Defensive Aids Sub-system (DASS) and Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) trials. In December 2001, Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, the UK’s former Chief of the Air Staff and now Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Imperial War Museum, became the first non-RAF test pilot to fly Typhoon when he took control of DA4 during a 60-minute flight from Warton.

Typhoon DA4 while in service with BAE Systems - the aircraft was based at the company's factory in Warton, Lancashire. BAE Systems image
During March 2002 DA4 achieved three notable achievements in a single sortie: the longest flight by a Eurofighter at the time (4 hr 22 min), the first air-to-air refuelling of a Eurofighter carrying external tanks and the first night air-to-air refuelling. Test Pilot Craig Penrice was in the front seat with RAF pilot Flt Lt Will Jonas in the rear. Shortly after on April 9 Craig Penrice, with WSO Stan Ralph, successfully carried out the first fully-guided firing of an AIM-120 AMRAAM at the QinetiQ range at Benbecula in the Hebrides, where a Mirach subsonic target was successfully tracked and targeted. The AMRAAM, which carried a telemetry package rather than a warhead, scored a direct hit, shooting the Mirach down into a safe area in the Atlantic Ocean.

In December 2006 DA4 marked twelve years as a development aircraft (completing 650 flights) with a flypast at Warton. On December 13, 2006 after 650 flights, DA4 was transferred to RAF Coningsby for use as a ground instructional airframe. The aircraft was gifted to the IWM by the Ministry of Defence in 2008 and transported to Duxford in April 2009.

The RAF and Duxford teams with Typhoon DA4 ZH590. Key - Gary Parsons
DA4 will be displayed in AirSpace, Duxford’s newest exhibition hall, which tells the story of British and Commonwealth aviation. Richard Ashton, Director of Imperial War Museum Duxford, said “I am delighted that we can present Eurofighter Typhoon DA4 as part of our visitor experience, particularly as Duxford played a major part in developing the original Hawker Typhoon - in 1942 the first Typhoon Wing was formed here. Without the support and advice of the RAF’s Squadron Leader Chris Akerman and his team, it would have been a very, very difficult thing to achieve, so I thank them very much indeed for their support.

“The principle of AirSpace is about inspiration; yes, we’re a museum of human conflict and sacrifice, of ordinary people living in extraordinary times, and extraordinary people living in extraordinary times. AirSpace takes that as its core, but it moves it forward; it’s very much designed as an area that should inspire a future generation of engineers, technologists, designers and pilots. It’s one thing talking about it, but it’s completely another thing actually seeing it.

“To have something in the flesh brings the story alive - by having such aircraft, we can tell the story, not just of the aircraft, but also of the people. As we move forward, Typhoon becomes more and more important in the missions that the Royal Air Force undertakes. I think it’s great that we can allow our many hundreds of thousands of visitors to see and better understand the mission and the focus of the Royal Air Force in the defence of this country.

Sqn Ldr Chris Akerman formally hands over ZH590 to the IWM. Key - Gary Parsons
“It squares a circle in terms of the aircraft that we display here - we’re very fortunate to have a DH9, the Royal Air Force’s first purpose-built bomber, delivered here to the Royal Flying Corps at Duxford in 1918. So from the very beginning, right the way through to the present day we have a fantastic collection of aircraft to show what British innovation and design has done.”

Squadron Leader Chris Akerman is the Officer Commanding Depth Department at RAF Coningsby. “We undertake depth maintenance,” he said. “The aircraft would go out to the front line, would fly about 400 hours, then it comes into my squadron - we’ll spend about six to eight weeks servicing it, then return it to the front line for another 400 flying hours.

“At the moment we’ve got four tracks running but that will build up as the Typhoon fleet builds up - eventually by about 2014 we should have about 14 tracks running. Coningsby will be the centre for RAF depth maintenance and a lot of the upgrade work that we currently see done by industry. We’ve got a new hangar underway in a £20 million construction project which will open at the end of July. We expect to operate from it from September onwards.”

The RAF and Duxford teams with Typhoon DA4 ZH590. Key - Gary Parsons
Many onlookers at Duxford may be surprised to see a Typhoon and wonder why it isn’t used by the RAF front-line squadrons. “This is quite a specific aircraft,” explained Sqn Ldr Akerman. “This was a development aircraft, a prototype, and almost all of the equipment on it is of no use on a front line aircraft. It’s job was to develop the Typhoon, so even some of the panels don’t fit production aircraft - there’s almost nothing left on this aircraft we can make any sensible use of, so the ideal place for it is in a museum where it can be looked at and inspire future generations.” DA4 is still pretty much as delivered to Coningsby from Warton - “The silver tape is ‘speed tape’, it stops the lamination on the edge of the panels. It’s more or less as it arrived at us. The engines went back to Rolls Royce to get re-engineered or recycled and there are one or two other bits that are missing off it that did have some use for us.” DA4 doesn’t even have a role as a ground instructional airframe any more - “To maintain an aircraft like this to use for ground training would be a hugely expensive enterprise. You’d have to have it capable of having power on, all of the systems would have to be up and running, and because of its fairly unique nature, you can’t just go and get another spare for it if it breaks, so it’s a museum piece. It will never be airworthy and flyable again. Once you’ve taken these apart, or taken the wings off, it’s difficult to get it back into flying condition.”

The Director of Imperial War Museum Duxford, Richard Ashton, checks out the front seat of Typhoon DA4. Key - Gary Parsons
On AirSpace, he had this to say: “I found it really inspirational to see the standard of engineering and the authenticity of the exhibits, which really does bring history to life - it’s an inspiration.”

According to Conservation Manager Chris Knapp, DA4 will remain in the conservation area of AirSpace until the next major reshuffle of exhibits, which could be many years away. “Modern health & safety requirements mean we can’t do as much in the conservation area as first planned when AirSpace was designed,” he said, “so any major work is now done in hangar 5.”

Filed Under Historic Aviation Features.


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