Blitzed: Moment RAF's £80m Typhoon destroyed two of Gaddafi's tanks

  • First time Typhoon fires weapons in anger in ground attack role
  • Pilots were grounded last year through lack of aircraft availability
Britain's most-advanced fighter jet has fired its weapons in anger for the first time, destroying two Libyan tanks threatening rebels.
The attack, using laser-guided Paveway II bombs near the besieged city of Misrata, took place while the pilot was patrolling with a Tornado GR4.
In total three Soviet-built T72 tanks were destroyed in the raid, bringing the total number of tanks destroyed by the RAF on Tuesday to eight.
Target: The T72 tank is sighted by the pilot near the besieged Libyan city of Misrata
Target: The T72 tank is sighted by the pilot near the besieged Libyan city of Misrata
News of the bombing came before it emerged that pilots of the £80m plane were grounded last year because shortages of aircraft spares mean they cannot put in enough flying hours to keep their skills up to date.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said five Typhoon pilots had to be temporarily grounded last year because a lack of aircraft availability meant they could not do the required flying time.
It said the shortages were also affecting the training programme, with only eight of the RAF's 48 Typhoon pilots qualified for ground attack operations - the role for which it is currently being in Libya.
The RAF is currently having to cannibalise aircraft for spare parts in order to keep the maximum number of Typhoons in the air on any given day.
The committee said the Ministry of Defence had warned the problems were likely to continue until 2015 when it expects the supply of spares finally to have reached a 'steady state'.
'The department relies on a small group of key industrial suppliers who have the technical and design capability to build, upgrade and support Typhoon,' the committee said.
Explosion: The tank is destroyed after the Typhoon pilot drops its laser-guided bomb
Explosion: The tank is destroyed after the Typhoon pilot drops its laser-guided bomb
Aftermath: The T72 burns following the raid, one of eight tanks to be destroyed in a single day by the RAF
Aftermath: The T72 burns following the raid, one of eight tanks to be destroyed in a single day by the RAF
'Problems with the availability of spare parts have meant that Typhoons are not flying as many hours as the department requires.
'The Typhoon supply chain is complex and stretches across Europe. However, the department admitted that it had not been managed well enough or delivered all the required parts when needed.'
Overall, it said that while the MoD was now buying 30 per cent fewer Typhoons than it had originally planned, the cost of the project had risen by an estimated £3.5billion - representing a 75 per cent increase in the cost of each individual aircraft.
When the MoD first entered into the contract for the Eurofighter, as it was then known, in 1998 in collaboration with Germany, Italy and Spain, it had envisaged buying a total of 232 aircraft in three tranches.
That has since been cut to 160 - with the 53 oldest aircraft due to be retired from service by 2019, leaving a long-term fleet of 107 aircraft.
Typhoon fighters have been used in attacks on Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Libya this week
Shortages: The bombings came before it emerged that RAF Typhoons were unable to fly due to supply problems
French forces have already used their own warplanes to seige Misrata
Nato effort: French forces have already used their own warplanes to attack Misrata
The overall cost of the programme is now estimated at £20.2billion - £3.5billion more than the original budget - with the cost per plane rising from £72million to £126million.
The committee complained that the MoD had been unable to offer a 'coherent explanation' for a decision in 2004 to equip the early Typhoons for ground attack operations at a cost of £119 million, only to switch them back to an air defence role in 2009, a year after the upgrade was finally ready.
'The history of the Typhoon fighter aircraft represents yet another example of over-optimism, bad planning and an unacceptably high bill for the taxpayer,' said the committee chairman, Margaret Hodge.
'This pattern of decision-making is more about balancing the books in the short-term rather than ensuring value for money over time.'
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the project was 'under control and back on track'.
'The NAO's March report concluded that after years of financial mismanagement and project delays under the previous government, the Typhoon project has been turned around,' he said.
'The project is finally under control and back on track. The PAC report recognises that the MoD and industry have worked to resolve spares issues and performance targets are now being met.
'The Typhoon is a world beating, air-to-air fighter and is fast developing a ground attack capability as is being demonstrated in Libya. We have sufficient numbers of qualified ground attack pilots to meet our operational tasks and this number is increasing all the time.
'As the PAC acknowledges, the UK's operational requirements have changed dramatically since the Typhoon programme began and this has led to tough decisions throughout its life.
Gaddafi has already shown defiance to his opponents by taking an open top car tour around Tripoli while the Libyan capital was being bombed by NATO
Target: Gaddafi has already shown defiance to his opponents by taking an open top car tour around Tripoli while the Libyan capital was being bombed by NATO
'But today it has 'done well (and) collaboration offers significant potential benefits from sharing costs and developing common capabilities with allies'.
'I am determined that in the future such projects are properly run from the outset, and I have announced reforms to reduce equipment delays and cost overruns.
'I will also chair regular major projects review boards to ensure our armed forces are well equipped and taxpayers get value for money.'
Air Vice Marshal Phil Osborn, Air Officer Commanding 2 Group, said: 'We have sufficient Typhoon aircraft and pilots to undertake the task in Libya with the appropriate training for the systems and weapons carried by the aircraft.
'We wouldn't deploy a capability if we couldn't support it and we weren't able to execute it in the way that you would expect the RAF to execute it, which is in a proportionate, disciplined, reliable way.'
 
 
Copyright © Chief Of War
Powered by Sinlung