“The RAF’s over-budget Typhoon fighter jets are being deployed in Libya on missions for which they are ill-equipped, because military chiefs are anxious to justify their high cost,” military sources revealed to The Times on 23 April.
The first combat attack by the Eurofighter Typhoon was carried out on 12 April, the day before a highly critical report on the £37bn* Typhoon programme by the public accounts committee (PAC) of the house of commons was due to be published. The report was changed after the combat attack, dropping the criticism that the aircraft had not been used in a ground attack role.
The ministry of defence (MoD) did not reveal at the time that the Typhoon used in the strike was incapable of targeting enemy vehicles – a separate RAF Tornado GR4 fitted with a targeting pod was used to guide the Typhoon’s missile. The Typhoon was also using an older, less precise but more powerful bomb that carried a higher risk of killing civilians in an urban environment.
MoD video shows the two tanks the Typhoon attacked were surrounded by buildings, near Misrata. A military insider told The Times that the Typhoon had no role over Libya because no Libyan aircraft were taking off: “The aim was just trying to get bombs dropped off it. It was a fudge, a publicity stunt, purely political.”
The cost of the Typhoon programme “spiralled” by 75% to £126m per aircraft, according to the PAC. RAF figures show that the Typhoon costs £85,895 per flying hour, while the Tornado costs £33,912.
*Yes: thirty-seven billion pounds!