Hangar Queens: Mothballed Typhoon ZJ945 & Other Little-Used Eurofighters

Mothballed Eurofighter Typhoon ZJ945, part of the Typhoon Sustainment Fleet of stored aircraft (Image: Kevin Mape. Mothballed Eurofighter Typhoon ZJ945 seen in 2011)

2016 saw at least one Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon (ZJ815) reduced to produce and another (ZJ922) leaving RAF Coningsby by road, reportedly to serve as a ground trainer at BAE Warton in Lancashire. Another airframe, ZJ943, was damaged beyond repair in a wheels-up landing at NAS China Lake, USA, in 2008, and is now stored at RAF Shawbury. Its tail fin is displayed within the 11 Squadron complex at Coningsby.

Other Typhoon airframes, meanwhile, have been largely stripped of useful spares and hidden away for years in the back of a hangar. At least two of these aircraft, ZJ940 and ZJ948, have never flown in RAF service. Instead, they are kept in reserve as part of the ‘sustainment fleet’, serving as parts donors to keep other Eurofighters flying. It may seem extravagant to dismantle expensive, little-used warplanes (in some cases) before they’ve even been used, but the practice is normal for military aviation, and ensures that aircraft are available throughout the lifespan of the programme (RAF Typhoons are expected to remain in service until 2040).

Hangar queen: Mothballed Eurofighter Typhoon ZJ945 spotted at RAF Coningsby (Image: Kevin Mape. Hangar queen ZJ945 at RAF Coningsby)

One of the Coningsby hangar queens is Typhoon ZJ945 (pictured in 2011), a Tranche 2 Block 8 airframe that first flew on September 4, 2008. The following year, on September 12, 2009, the aircraft was one of five Block 8 Typhoons deployed to the South Atlantic to replace the ageing Tornado F3s of No. 1435 Flight, tasked with defending the airspace around the Falkland Islands. ZJ945’s role was that of an extra aircraft, or air spare, flying with the other four jets in case one had a technical fault and had to turn back. That didn’t happen, and ZJ945 landed at Ascension Island before returning to the UK. Having recovered back to Coningsby, ZJ945 disappeared into storage and hasn’t flown since. The airframe made a rare appearance (above) in January 2011, where is was photographed being towed from the technical site to a vacant hardened aircraft shelter.

Tranche 1 Block 2 Typhoon FGR4 ZJ918 during Operation Ellamy (Image: SAC Neil Chapman. Tranche 1 Block 2 Typhoon during Operation Ellamy)

A 2015 Freedom of Information request revealed that Typhoons ZJ922 (Tranche 1 Block 2), ZJ940 (Tranche 1 Block 5), ZJ945, ZJ948 (both Tranche 2 Block 8) and ZK326 (Tranche 2 Block 10) were stored as part of the sustainment fleet and being used for spare parts. The FOIA request stated that ZJ922 and ZJ940 “have been assessed by BAE Systems to see if they can be returned to flight and a feasibility study is underway to determine when that could happen.” A subsequent request added that “Typhoons ZJ945, ZJ948 and ZJ326 [sic] will be assessed by BAE Systems to see what would be required to return them to flight.”

As we saw in late 2016, ZJ922 departed Coningsby by road while the remaining airframes are still in storage. Meanwhile, the Coningsby Avation Site currently shows the Typhoon Sustainment Fleet as consisting of ZJ940, ZJ945 and ZJ948. Joining them more recently is ZJ944, another Tranche 2 Block 8 machine that suffered Category 3 damage and is awaiting repair. ZK326 is also listed as stored on the Lincolnshire airfield.

Typhoon in full reheat at Farnborough, 2010 (Image: Vladimir Korolkov. Typhoon displays at Farnborough, 2010)

When (and if) these machines take to the sky again remains to be seen. The RAF’s early Tranche 1 Typhoon fleet had been set to go out of service on March 31, 2019 (and Tranche 2 on March 31, 2030), making it unlikely the 10-year-old ZJ940 – which is understood to have not flown since its delivery in 2007 – would ever see use beyond that of a parts donor.

But last year it was reported that at least 30 of the 48 workhorse Tranche 1 jets would be retained to create additional fast jet air defence squadrons. Perhaps in time the aircraft listed above will fly again.

Read Next: JP098: Non-Flying Eurofighter Typhoon Test Rig Fuselage at St Athan

 
 
 

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