To survive in a present-day, hostile, combat scenario, all modern fighter aircraft must be designed with “stealth” in mind and some aircraft have been designed with stealth as the overriding design objective. In some cases this is undertaken regardless of the impact that this approach might have on other critically important features such as maneuverability, weapon payload and, more importantly, affordability.
Designing a fighter aircraft for stealth alone means making compromises to its aerodynamic and manoeuvre performance as well as restricting the number of weapons that aircraft can carry. The carriage of weapons on conventional under-wing pylons negates the stealth design.
The design of the Eurofighter Typhoon has not sacrificed flexibility of weapon carriage, maneuverability or performance to produce an inflexible stealth aircraft but it does contain a comprehensive suite of stealth features.
Visual Detection: the combination of small airframe and smokeless engines make the Eurofighter Typhoon very difficult to detect visually.
Radar Reflections: although not of the classic angular, zigzag edged shape usually associated with stealth designs, Eurofighter Typhoon’s shape balances aerodynamic requirements, such as low drag and high lift, with the need to minimise reflected radar energy in all directions, producing a signature which is smaller than that of all other fighter aircraft currently in production.
Passive Systems: using a combination of IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track), ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile) and helmet aiming, the Eurofighter Typhoon pilot can electronically detect, engage and kill other aircraft without a hostile pilot ever being aware of the aircraft's presence. Similarly, with FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) and night vision equipment, the Eurofighter Typhoon pilot is able to operate passively at night, detecting and engaging ground targets without emitting tell-tale radar transmissions.
Defensive Aids: Eurofighter Typhoon’s self-protection system has a number of passive modes, allowing the detection of enemy emissions without revealing the Eurofighter aircraft's presence.
Supercruise: The ability to accelerate to and maintain supersonic speeds without the use of engine re-heat drastically reduces detectability through infra-red sensors whilst at the same time increasing range.
Communications: Any radio transmission can reveal an aircraft’s position but the Eurofighter Typhoon is able to receive information, both in the form of voice and data - such as target information - from its datalink. Similarly, inter-formation communications can also be achieved via datalink, thereby minimising the need for radio transmissions.
These features, inherent within the aircraft airframe and onboard system design, are supported by a cockpit, that gives the pilot continuous and instant control over the level of emissions from the aircraft. The pilot can operate completely “silent”, yet still receive target information from other aircraft and the Eurofighter Typhoon’s own passive sensors, throughout an engagement, at the same time relying on the aircraft’s stealth features to protect it against detection.
All these features ensure that the Eurofighter Typhoon has high survivability and the ability to operate independently from ground and airborne control agencies in dense electronic warfare environments.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is, by any standard, a stealthy aircraft.