(Image: Alan Wilson; Typhoon ZJ815 (EB-H) before RTP)
We’ve documented the steady draw-down of the RAF’s Tornado GR4 fleet, whereby warplanes reaching the end of their service lives are stripped for parts in a process known as RTP (reduced to produce). The remainder of the airframe – generally the empty fuselage hulk, is then recycled as scrap. But where the UK’s fast jet fleet is concerned, this process doesn’t stop at the Tornado. As of October 2016, the first of Britain’s modern Eurofighter Typhoon jets has also been sent for RTP.
The aircraft in question, serial number ZJ815, was the sixteenth production Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft built for the RAF. The Tranche 1 (block 2) jet was part of a batch of early-production two-seat trainers built to teach instructors and operational pilots how to fly the cutting-edge aircraft. Built as a Typhoon T1, ZJ815 was later upgraded to T3 standard and served with No. 29 (Reserve) Squadron, the Typhoon operational conversion unit (OCU) at RAF Coningsby, coded BN. She first flew on October 10, 2007 and entered Royal Air Force service the following month.
(Image: Alan Wilson; ZJ815 coded BN of 29 Sqn)
During her time on active duty at Coningsby, Typhoon ZJ815 also flew as DY of No. 11 (Fighter) Squadron and AY with 17 (R) Sqn. She was latterly flown by No. 41 TES, the RAF’s Test and Evaluation Squadron, wearing the tail code EB-H. Another notable 41 Sqn machine has also featured on the website – the dumped remains of Tornado GR4 ZA600 after RTP at Leeming.
Typhoon ZJ815 was herself reportedly reduced to produce at Coningsby in October 2016. It’s likely that most of her vital components were reclaimed for use on other front-line Typhoons and active trainers. But it’s unclear at this time whether the 9-year-old warplane’s stripped-out fuselage hulk has been scrapped or stored. (The below image shows the withdrawn fuselage of Typhoon ground test rig JP098, giving an idea of what ZJ815 may not look like.)
(Image: Richard E. Flagg/UK Airfields; remains of Typhoon test rig JP098)
Despite reports that the RAF’s early Tranche 1 Typhoons will be retained for UK air defence purposes (the still relatively young jets were originally intended to be removed from service by the end of the decade), it’s unclear how many twin-seat trainers will survive, given the increasing emphasis put on high-fidelity simulators in fast jet training.
Whatever the reasons may be for ZJ815’s seemingly-premature RTP, other early block Typhoon T3s may eventually follow. Only one RAF Typhoon (ZJ943) has been written off to date, its fuselage currently in storage at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire. Several others remain in storage with the Typhoon Sustainment Fleet at Coningsby, at least two of which (ZJ940 and ZJ948) have never flown since they were delivered to the RAF in 2007 and 2009 respectively.