With around 2,000 hours flying time in total, over half of 32-year-old Squadron Leader Jody McMeeking’s flying experience has been with the Typhoon. He’s been an instructor and has flown the aircraft operationally, both as part of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert Force and in the Falklands, so he knows the aircraft inside out:
It’s a fantastic jet to fly, is incredibly agile and can carry a flexible range of weaponry,” says Squadron Leader McMeeking. “The cockpit is great in terms of pilot interaction for both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. The modern air battle is incredibly complex. Typhoon helps us win that battle by significantly enhancing our situational awareness.
The RAF jets based at Gioia del Colle in Italy are the FGR4 variant of the Typhoon (‘F’ for ‘fighter’ and ‘GR’ for ‘ground attack and reconnaissance’), and differ from those deployed in the UK and the Falklands which are equipped primarily for ‘air-to-air’ combat:
I’m really privileged to have got 1,000 hours while on operations with the aircraft and it’s great to see the aircraft ‘stretch its legs’ here in Italy,” continues the Squadron Leader. “This is its first war-fighting role, and our Typhoons have deployed over 100 precision guided weapons while out here.
There are six Typhoons currently stationed at Gioia del Colle air base and eleven pilots. Aircraft are not personally assigned to a pilot, so all pilots fly all aircraft. But does Squadron Leader McMeeking have a favourite?
You love the one you’re with,” he jokes. “But every jet has its personality, and our ground crew do an amazing job, putting in long hours to make sure that the aircraft are always in the best possible condition.
“They work 24/7, 365 days a year out here and they never fail to deliver. We just couldn’t do what we do without them.”
But how easy is the Typhoon to fly compared with the Tornado?
The Typhoon is a generation ahead of the Tornado in all aspects - manoeuvrability, agility, sensors - so a comparison isn’t really fair,” says Squadron Leader McMeeking.
“It’s an easy jet to learn to fly, but it takes a lot of practice to learn to operate well because of the sheer amount of information available to the pilot. I know the aircraft had its detractors during development, but what we’re seeing now on operations is proof of this great aircraft’s capability.”