The Italian Air Force has integrated the GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway II bombs with the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet for “Swing Role” missions.
The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has published an interesting photo of a Eurofighter Typhoon of the 4° Stormo (Wing), based at Grosseto Air Base, flying with a full loadout that includes four new GBU-48 bombs along with 4x AIM-120 AMRAAMs, 2x IRIS-T missiles, 2x tanks and a Litening targeting pod (a sort-of of unusual Italian Typhoon’s “Beast Mode” configuration). Interestingly, while the bombs are inert, the missiles have the yellow stripes, meaning they are “live” weapons.
The GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway II is a 1,000 lb (454 kg) Enhanced dual-mode (GPS and Laser guided) version of the GBU-16, also known as EGBU-16. The GBU-48 bomb is already integrated with the GAF Eurofighter.
While the integration of the new bombs is interesting, what’s even more remarkable is the fact that the Italian Air Force has become quite vocal about the “Swing Role” capabilities of its F-2000s (the Italian designation for the Typhoon is F-2000A, for the single seater, and TF-2000A, for the two seater).
As we reported in detail throughout the years, unlike other partner nations, the Italian Air Force hadn’t initially planned to employ the Typhoon is the air-to-surface role. In 2016, when the Italian Typhoons took part in their first Red Flag exercise, three of the Typhoons deployed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, were Tranche 2 examples that embedded the P1E(B) upgrades and were loaded with the latest Software Release Package. The two T2 Typhoons carried also two inert GBU-16 Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and the Litening targeting pod in order to validate the tactics being developed since the aircraft started the OT&E (Operational Testing & Evaluation) in 2015. At that time, the Italian Air Force claimed the Swing Role capability was being developed only to support the platform’s export capabilities and help the industry promoting the aircraft in particular regions (like Kuwait).
“Air superiority remains our primary mission,” told us Col. Pederzolli, commander of the 4° Stormo, during an interview in 2016. “However, last year, using the software releases that embed a significant air-to-surface potential we have started flying Swing Role missions with the aim to get a limited secondary air-to-ground capability.”
Following the Red Flag participation, a team of experienced Eurofighter pilots was destined to the new role and those aircrews who were already dual role qualified took part in a TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) course at Albacete flying the Swing Role mission.
Many things have changed since then.
Interesting shot of an ItAF Typhoon in swing role configuration: 2x GBU-16s, 2x IRIS-T and 4x AIM-120 AAMs, Litening Pod, 2x drop tanks. https://t.co/44bmw7vjmL
— David Cenciotti (@cencio4) February 21, 2021
Despite the domestic criticism, Italy has started receiving its first F-35A (and then B) Lightning II jets, that the Italian Air Force has declared IOC (Initial Operational Capable) at the end of 2018 during the first 5th gen. TLP training course held at Amendola Air Base, home of the 32° Stormo, the first Italian Lightning unit. The stealth aircraft has then been more or less accepted by the public opinion and has already carried out two overseas missions under NATO command and has also achieved IOC in the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) role, showcasing the willingness of the Italian Air Force to exploit the F-35 not only in the air-to-surface but also in the air-to-air role. This has also paved the way for a gradual expansion of the Eurofighter tasks with more communication being done around the Swing Role capabilities of the F-2000s.
A pair of #AeronauticaMilitare Eurofighters heading back to the 36th Fighter Wing of Gioia del Colle (BA) after completing a training mission in #SwingRole set up: ready to use several capabilities of the aircraft in combat mission scenarios pic.twitter.com/xTJQwSOppu
— Aeronautica Militare (@ItalianAirForce) March 4, 2021
From March 2019 to August 2020, the Italian Air Force Typhoons were deployed to Kuwait in support of OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) in Syria and Iraq. The Italian F-2000s carried out reconnaissance missions using the RecceLite II pod. The tour of duty in the Middle East marked a significant “multirole evolution” for the Italian Typhoons, which logged more than 2,000 FH (Flight Hours) in theater.
Anyway, using the F-2000 at its full potential for attack, CAS (Close Air Support), AI (Air Interdiction) and Recce roles makes a lot of sense and follows the steps of the Royal Air Force, that has been the pioneer service in the air-to-ground mission with the type, using the Typhoon FGR4s first in Libya 10 years ago, then in the air war against Daesh in Iraq and Syria (using also the Storm Shadow cruise missiles for the first time); and the German Air Force, that under project Quadriga plans to use a mix of Tranche 4 Eurofighters, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to replace the Tornados.