As Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) begins receiving the most capable Eurofighter Typhoons yet, the four-nation program is gearing up for a wave of potential new sales.

So far, the RAF has received 26 Eurofighter Typhoons kitted out with the initial elements of the Project Centurion upgrade package, enabling the Typhoon to take on the vast majority of the missions performed by the Panavia Tornado GR4 which is being phased out of service at the end of March next year.

The first elements of Centurion were actually quietly introduced onto the RAF Typhoons in January 2017, explained Air Commodore Linc Taylor, the RAF’s senior responsible officer for delivering UK air combat capability, speaking at the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 13. These initial upgrades were a “wrap up” of some systems on the aircraft that had not been updated for several years. This was subsequently followed by the integration of the Phase 2 Enhancements (P2E) package which enables the use of the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and an initial Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile capability.

“This is the greatest changes in the software of the aircraft,” said Taylor, “It significantly enhances the bread and butter of the aircraft, and the way pilot interacts with the human-machine interface.”

Then, BAE is planning to install the P3E package, which will enable the use of the Brimstone air-to-ground missile by the end of the year.

“The Typhoon is going to be the backbone of the RAF’s combat mass for at least another 20 years…my intent is to accelerate on Typhoon, now that the aircraft is relatively mature, we should be able to do things faster.”

In the future, Britain is planning to integrate the Spear 3 network-enabled lightweight missile, which will also equip the F-35 as well as the Leonardo Britecloud active decoy recently declared operational on the Tornado. Britain is also funding the development of a more advanced version of the Euroradar Captor E active-electronically-scanned array, or so-called e-scan radar. While Kuwait will be the first customer of the Captor-E in the European Common Radar System Mk.1 configuration, Britain wants the Mk.2 or Radar 2 configuration which is expected to add an electronic attack capability.

The Eurofighter consortium sees a potential for another 300 Typhoon orders in the coming years. In March, the Saudi government signed a letter of intent with the UK to purchase as many as 48 Typhoons to supplement the 72 aircraft the Kingdom had already taken delivery. The UK is also leading campaigns to sell the Typhoon into Belgium and Finland. Belgium is expected to make a selection decision in the coming weeks. Perhaps the largest opportunity lies in Germany where the aircraft is being proposed as a replacement for the Panavia Tornado and will have to take up many of the German air force Tornado missions including the suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses and the nuclear strike role with the B61 weapon, which Berlin has access to under a dual-key arrangement with the U.S.

Airbus is also proposing upgrades for the Eurofighter’s Eurojet EJ200 engine and using its growth potential to boost thrust by up to 15% in some flight profiles, as well as make improvements to fuel consumption.

“We are going to have this jet around until 2040 … it is going to evolve and develop, and these will be technologies that enable us to move into the future fighter domain,” said Dave Armstrong, director of European and International business for BAE's Air division.

The RAF had planned on retiring its Tranche 1 Typhoons in favor of holding onto Tranche 2 and 3 jets, however the Strategic Defense and Security Review of 2015, called for the expansion of the UK’s combat aircraft fleets, and the creation of up to three new Typhoon squadrons and retaining the Tranche 1 jets until 2030. The UK declared that it would reform 12 Sqdn, until recently a Tornado unit, as the fifth Typhoon front-line squadron. The unit would also have a role in training Qatar Emiri Air Force pilots as that air arm gears up to operate 24 Typhoons from 2022. Then, in the run-up to the Farnborough Airshow, the Royal Air Force Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier announced that the RAF’s seventh Typhoon unit would be 9 Sqdn, reforming at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.