Alpine agility

On a hot summer’s day in the picturesque Alpine setting deep in Austria, it’s difficult to imagine that the temperature here can drop to -25°C in winter.

The Typhoons of the Austrian Air Force seem to take it in their stride. At Hinterstoisser Air Base near Zeltweg, two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft of the 1st Squadron of the ‘Überwachungsgeschwader’ (Surveillance Wing) are kept in a constant state of readiness within the new state-of-the-art hardened shelters, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to counter a variety of threats in Austrian airspace. For this Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) role they can be airborne in seven minutes to deal with any unidentified incursions, including an airborne terrorist threat. 

Such a scenario seems at odds with the serene surroundings, but with the Typhoon fleet designated for an air policing role, it’s what the pilots here are trained to do. Captain Alexander Miksitz is one of the Air Force’s most experienced Typhoon pilots: ‘I’ve been scrambled on QRA duties several times and this is where the adrenalin really kicks in. When the horn goes off you have no idea what to expect once you get airborne – it could be something as routine and unthreatening as a civil airliner experiencing a loss of communications, for which you would just have to identify and escort the aircraft. Or it could be a terrorist attack which would necessitate decisive action from us.’

The Typhoon is powered by two EJ200 engines, produced by Eurojet, in which Rolls-Royce is a major partner. The twin EJ200’s combined thrust of 40,000lbs – more than many medium size airliners need to get airborne – gives the Typhoon an extremely short take-off roll and also provides sustained ‘super-cruise’ – the ability of the aircraft to cruise at supersonic speed without deploying engine reheat. 
‘The agility and performance of the aircraft are key to the air policing role,’ explains Captain Miksitz. ‘The Typhoon is an amazing aircraft to fly and has a very powerful engine. When you set it to maximum reheat you climb at a fantastic rate – there’s a real “wow” factor for the pilot thanks to the combination of the aircraft control system and the engines.

As well as new aircraft the base has been completely upgraded to host this new capability. Along with the 15 Typhoons, the base also boasts a new simulator building, squadron headquarters and maintenance hangar and a refurbished runway. It is home to around 1,000 personnel.

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