Typhoon cool for winter operations

The RAF has been carrying out Arctic trials on the Typhoon with four other nations.

The RAF has been carrying out Arctic trials on the Typhoon with four other nations.

With the worst of the winter weather to come canny drivers are making sure their vehicles are well prepared.

New windcscreen wipers, screen wash, anti-freeze and a supply of chocolate incase you break down.

But what if your vehicle is a BAE Systems Typhoon?

Well, the pilots at Warton have been preparing for winter this week breaking out their special winter clothing and the aircraft themselves have been made winter proof too.

Chief test pilot Mark Bowman knows all about sub-zero temperatures. He helped carry out cold weather trials of the aircraft in Sweden where mercury dropped to -31C.

The RAF has been carrying out Arctic trials with four other nations in September to hone their cold weather tactics – and the jet has proved its worth.

Mark said: “It is a testament to the aircraft that it can operate worldwide from temperatures of -31C in the Arctic to the deserts of Saudi Arabia.

“People might not think that the North West is a hostile environment for aircraft, but it is. The sea temperature in winter can be as low as 3C and in those conditions any pilot who has ejected will lose feeling in his hands in two to three minutes.

“With our winter gear on we can extend that to two to three hours.”

The pilots have been testing out their waterproof immersion protection suits, their thermal fleece undersuits – which look like olive green onesies – and their winter flying gloves.

With five layers of clothing plus lifejacket and anti-G suit on top, the winter protection can weigh 25 kilos.

Mark said: “No one would suggest that out of the cockpit the gear is comfortable, but once in the aircraft it is fine.”

He said the pilot, once bailed out into the sea, would have an automatically inflating life jacket and a survival dinghy to climb into.

“Once our sea temperatures get below about 10C we change to our winter clothing. Most of our flying here is carried out over the Irish Sea area so we have to be prepared.

“In the Arctic we carry extra equipment too. We had icesaws to cut blocks from the snow and extra weapons incase we had to deal with the threat of bears!”

Any systems on the Typhoon itself which have liquids inside have to be capable of operating to at least -30C. The aircraft has mini-heaters for batteries and the computer systems have to be capable of dealing with the cold where normal systems would run more slowly.

Although there are no windscreen wipers to replace, the canopy has a special coating which repels water and keeps the pilots’ vision free from snow. Luckily, unlike civil aircraft which have to have their wings de-iced, the Typhoon can fly so fast that it strips away ice build-up.

Mark said: “It needs to be a bit better than your average Ford Escort, but the Arctic trials have proved it is capable of operating at the full capacity anywhere.”

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