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Archive for May, 2013

On drones

Posted by picard578 on May 25, 2013

Some say that UAVs can replace tactical aircraft, and that, being cheaper, can be produced in greater numbers. But UAVs have greater logistical burden when compared to even relatively complex manned fighter, as UAV support crews need to eat, and maintenance isn’t simple either. More C-130s are required, more parts and technicians are also required for both UAV and support mechanisms. Neither can UAVs do ground attack missions, and combat-capable UAVs aren’t going to be cheap even when counting only production costs. And while I did write an article about (in)ability of UAVs to replace manned fighters, I hope for this article to be more detailed and adress some issues I have not touched in my previous article.

UAVs were first used in Spanish-American war in 1898 when journalist William Eddy took hundreds of photographs from camera suspended under a kite. While not strictly “UAV”, in third century BC Chinese used kites to help with triangulating distance required for tunnel dug under the walls. First heavier than air unmanned aircraft flew in 1896, over Potomac river. In World War II US military attempted to develop a radio-controlled bomber, codename Aphrodite; none of prototypes were successful and project was scrapped. First successful military use of UAVs was in Vietnam, with Ryan 147 Lightning Bug flying 3.435 reconnaissance sorties during Vietnam war. In 1972, modified Lightning Bug was used to launch a missile against simulated SAM. In 1982, Israel successfuly used UAVs in reconnaissance role in Lebanon, and US Navy acquired UAVs from Israel for use in Desert Storm. But are modern UAVs useful? I’m going to take a look at following missions: air superiority, ground attack and reconnaissance.

Complet required for two unarmed Shadow 200 UAVs costs 36 million USD, and UAVs themselves cost 275.000 USD. Single unarmed Predator costs 17 million USD flyaway, and 3.200 USD per hour to operate, without counting control systems. Reaper costs 17 million USD flyaway and 3.600 USD per hour; group of 4 plus control equipment costs 129 million USD. Global Whale (offical name Global Hawk) reconnaissance UAV costs 141 million USD plus 17 million USD per year; while SR-71 costs 261 million USD, having in mind sortie rate issues described later, it is entirely possible that SR-71 may provide more sorties per 1 billion USD spent on aircraft acquisition. Single X-45A, a new US UCAV, is estimated to cost 25 million USD flyaway at empty weight of 3.630 kg. As final version, X-45C, weights 19.000 kg, flyaway cost will likely be 131 million USD. Carrier capable X-47B is expected to weight 6.350 kg empty; flyaway cost will likely be around 100 million USD. Thus UCAVs will cost 25-130 million USD and weight 3,6 to 19 tons, resulting in costs of 6.800 to 15.700 USD per kg; compare to 16-18 million USD and 5,7 to 11,32 tons for well-designed manned fighters, resulting in costs of 1.400 to 3.200 USD per kg, and 30 million USD for F-16A, resulting in cost of 4.240 USD per kg. As X-45A is unlikely to be used for combat, especially for air-to-air, operational UCAVs will be as heavy or heavier, and far costlier than my proposed manned fighters. European UCAV project, nEUROn, despite only being capable of ground attack missions, weights 4.900 kg empty and costs 32,5 million USD, a cost of 6.633 USD per kg. Air superiority UCAVs will cost even more than given costs because of requirement for pulling high g maneuvers, which will put strain on airframe, and especially on fragile electronic components – it is likely that cost of typical air superiority UCAV – if these ever appear – will be 30 to 200 million USD flyaway. None of these costs take into account cost of control systems, such as control unit and communications hardware.

UAVs are notoriously unreliable. While UCAV replacing 4th generation aircraft will cost as much as – or more than – fighter it is replacing, UAVs loss rate is higher than that of manned fighter – even if UCAVs cost turns out far less than that of modern fighter aircraft, in the long run it will be far more, and will support effectively smaller force due to high maintenance requirements and inability to build up numbers caused by huge loss rate. Class A mishap (loss of aircraft) rate per 100.000 hours was 4,1 for F-16, 6,8 for U2, 20 for Predator, 88 for Global Hawk and 191 for Shadow. 2005 Congressional Research Service report indicates that UAV is 100 times more likely to succumb to failure than manned aircraft; considering US DoD history of misreportation, it is possible that figures cited underestimate UAV loss rate (CRS report also cites F-22 loss rate as being 6 per 100.000 hours).

Claim is that UAVs do not require a pilot, and that this reduces costs even more. This is incorrect: UAVs require pilots, except these are not in aircraft itself. Further, while 4 JAS-39 require 4 pilots and 40 maintenance personnell, each Reaper 4-drone CAP requires at least 171 personnell, including 13 pilots. This does not account for other support personnell: drones operating in Pakistan are dependant on US intelligence community as well as tens of thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan; without these troops, they would not have bases to operate from. And in serious air war, people are just as much in danger on the ground as in the air, if not more so; result is that drones put more people at risk, not less. Even in permissive airspace, they are always used alongside ground forces, while in any kind of defended airspace they require manned fighter escort to operate.

Reaper can only withstand 2 g maneuvers, and high angle maneuvers can lead to connection loss, resulting in a crash. Maximum payload is 1/5 of A-10s and it has nothing comparable to massive GAU-8 cannon. It can also loiter between 18 and 40 hours, depending on payload. Read the rest of this entry »


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Why return to single-role aircraft

Posted by picard578 on May 18, 2013

Main problem with today’s materialistic, consumeristic, technoaddicted, narrow-minded worldview when translated to the military is a tendency to look at everything from platform level and not battlefield level: we want more “capable” aircraft, with capability often being defined as number of different missions single aircraft can carry out and number of mostly-useless technological gadgets it carries. Consequential increase in cost is justified by “increased capability”; lost are lessons of previous wars: facts, that people are most important part of the war machine; that if enemy is in range, so are you – and it works in all areas of combat; and that numbers, despite everything, still matter. Increased complexity is slowly driving modern air forces towards impotency. In the Korean War, helicopters required 6 days from factory to war zone.

Many different types of combat missions are needed in a war: air superiority, low-level strikes against fixed targets, and close air support being some of the most important combat missions. But these missions have vastly different requirements from aircraft undertaking them. Read the rest of this entry »

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F-35 and its troubles

Posted by picard578 on May 11, 2013

While people term F-35 a “multirole” aircraft, and Lockheed Martin stated that it is second-best air superiority fighter in the world, F-35 is primarly a dedicated ground attack aircraft. This can be seen relatively easily, as there are different requirements for fighters and for ground attack aircraft.

Primary requirement for ground attack aircraft is ability to fly low and fast. This means that gust sensitivity should be minimal, which is done by high wing loading; only exception are close air support aircraft, which have to be able to fly low and slow, and be agile at low speeds. Air superiority aircraft, on the other hand, has to be able to turn while maintaining energy, which is achieved through having low wing loading, low drag and high thrust to weight ratio.

F-35s EOTS IR sensor (not to be confused with EO DAS which is defense system) can only detect targets right in front of, and below, aircraft.


Wavelengths used by it are also optimised for detecting ground targets.

Even F-35s name says it all: “strike fighter”. Unlike multirole fighters, which are designed to operate primarly in air superiority role but can also carry out ground and (sometimes) maritime strike missions, strike fighter is designed to operate primarly in strike role, with air-to-air capability being secondary and usually limited to self-defense (even A-10 can carry Sidewinders for self-protection purposes).

At 50% fuel, thrust-to-weight ratio of all three fighters is below that of modern fighter aircraft at air-to-air configuration takeoff weight, with exception of Saab Gripen. For both F-35A and F-35B, wing loading at 50% fuel is above 400 kg per square meter, with F-35C achieving barely acceptable 340 kilos per square meter. While there is a degree of wing-body blending, amound of body lift is not comparable to air superiority aircraft like F-16, Gripen or Rafale. STOVL requirement also resulted in stubby, fat body, making F-35 a drag queen, especially when compared to clean F-16 – and for all three aircraft listed, clean configuration includes 2 AAM, either BVR or WVR, whereas Typhoon carries 4 BVR AAM in clean configuration. Result is that F-35 has rather sluggish acceleration, and looses energy quickly.

Its cockpit visibility is also good only to front, sides and above aircraft – and in these areas, it is still limited by bow canopy frame. Rearward visibility is nonexistent, thanks to STOVL requirements of B variant – and when pilot brought up that flaw, general Bogdan stated that he can always “put pilot in cargo aircraft where he won’t have to worry about getting gunned down”. Its high-tech HMD, counted at to adress problems of limited cockpit view, also experienced problems, making it possible that information to F-35s pilots will be limited to only what they can see directly through canopy – which is not much – and what can de displayed from sensors on screens within cockpit. This means that problems with canopy bow and ejection seat headrest impeding visibility might get F-35 gunned down in visual combat.

F-35 is also seriously flammable – fuel literally surrounds the engine, and fire protection measures have long since been deleted from the design in order to make it lighter. As result, hits from any kind of weapon which can penetrate its skin – basically anything from 20 mm cannon and above – will turn it into fireball.

Due to everything described above, it has to rely on stealth to survive. But stealth aircraft since SR-71 have been routinely detected by radars and IR sensors during and after Cold War; USSR luckily never chose to shoot any US aircraft, while Iraq did not have capability to do so, even if indications exist that Iraqis did detect F-117. But Serbs easily solved the VHF radar’s problem with low resolution, using it to guide IR SAM close enough to F-117 for missile to acquire and engage the target. Result are two F-117s taken out of action during Kosovo war, one shot down and one mission-killed.

Radar-based BVR combat has never been reliable either. Radar-guided missiles never achieved Pk of over 8% against capable opponent, and this is unlikely to improve, despite all USAFs self-deluding exercises where F-22s BVR missiles are assigned probabilities of kill of 90%. Even this “capable” should be taken with bit of salt, as it refers to North Vietnamese – but at very least, and unlike Iraqis, they did try to evade the missiles.

In fact, by using Air Power Australia report and fixing it with calculable data, it is possible to calculate likely BVR missile Pk against modern, 12-g capable fighter. As g forces pulled in tracking turn are square of speed difference, it can be calculated how much of forces required can modern missiles achieve. AIM-120 travels at Mach 4, and can pull 30 g within its NEZ, yet it would need 768 Gs to reliably hit a modern fighter which is maneuvering at corner speed of Mach 0,5, or 237 Gs if target is still at standard cruise speed of Mach 0,9. This results in Pk between 3 and 13% against fighter aircraft with no ECM, which fits perfectly with 8% Pk demonstrated against (mostly) maneuvering aircraft without ECM to date. If fighter is maneuvering at corner speed, but is still limited to 9 g by FCS (is not in override), BVR missile Pk is 5,2%. Thus, we have following kill-chain against modern fighter aircraft in g override (12 g capable) at M 0,5 (most likely scenario, as RWR will have warned pilot of radar lock):

Action – likelyhood of failure – hit probability

  1. Active missile confirmed on launch rail — 0.1% — 0,999

  2. Search and track radar jammed – 5% — 0,949

  3. Launch or missile failure – 5% — 0,902

  4. Guidance link jammed – 3% — 0,875

  5. Seeker head jammed or diverted — 30% — 0,612

  6. Chaff or decoys seduce the seeker — 5% — 0,581

  7. Seeker chooses towed decoy — 50% — 0,29

  8. Aircraft out-maneuvers missile — 97% — 0,00873

  9. Fuse or warhead failure — 2% — 0,00856

Total: 0,86%

Against 9 g capable fighter aircraft, it goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed on launch rail — 0.1%
  2. Search and track radar jammed – 5%
  3. Launch or missile failure – 5%
  4. Guidance link jammed – 3%
  5. Seeker head jammed or diverted — 30%
  6. Chaff or decoys seduce the seeker — 5%
  7. Seeker chooses towed decoy — 50% — 0,291
  8. Aircraft out-maneuvers missile — 94,8% — 0,015
  9. Fuse or warhead failure — 2% — 0,0146

Total: 1,46%

This can be compared to 0,36% probability of kill shown by modern SAMs against capable opponent (with 2 hits being a non-maneuvering VLO light bombers at low altitude and with no ECM; if only actual fighters are counted, probability of kill is 0,12%, as 1 F-16 was shot down out of 842 launches).

In WVR combat, if missile travels at Mach 3 and fighter aircraft travels at Mach 0,5 (corner speed of many modern fighters) and can pull 12 g maneuvers, missile needs to pull 432 g to hit fighter aircraft. This gives a Pk of 14% for WVR missiles, as even IRIS-T can “only” pull 60 gs. Against targets limited to 9 g, it has to pull 324 g, for Pk of 18,5%.

As such, for visual-range missiles, against aircraft maneuvering at corner speed, calculation goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed or on launch rail – 0,001 – 0,999
  2. Launch or missile failure – 0,03 – 0,969
  3. DIRCM effective – 0,00 (rarely fitted to fighters)
  4. Flare or decoys seduce the seeker – 0,05 – 0,921
  5. Aircraft out-maneuvers the missile – 0,86 – 0,13
  6. Fuse or warhead failure – 0,1 – 0,12

Total Pk: 12%

Against fighter aircraft limited to 9 g it goes this way:

  1. Active missile confirmed or on launch rail – 0,001 – 0,999
  2. Launch or missile failure – 0,03 – 0,969
  3. DIRCM effective – 0,00 (rarely fitted to fighters)
  4. Flare or decoys seduce the seeker – 0,05 – 0,92
  5. Aircraft out-maneuvers the missile – 0,81 – 0,17
  6. Fuse or warhead failure – 0,1 – 0,157

Total Pk: 15,7%

As such, BVR missiles will have Pk of 0,86% – 1,46%, and WVR missiles will have Pk of 12% – 15,7%. As F-35 can carry 4 missiles, combined Pk will be 3,44% – 5,84% for BVR missiles, or 48% – 62,8% for WVR missiles. Because F-35 is very expensive and maintenance-intensive, it will find itself outnumbered, and forced to engage opponents with gun. This will mean F-35s loss against most fighter aircraft, as it is performance-limited: only one version can regularly pull 9 g maneuvers, and other two are limited to 7 and 7,5 g, respectively – which also means that opponent’s IR missiles will have higher Pk against them (~20%) than other way around. They can’t run either, as maximum speed when clean is Mach 1,6 – theoretically, as current aircraft are unable to go past Mach 0,9. While all three versions likely have ultimate load limit of 13,5 g, it is unknown wether F-35B and C will be allowed to go into g override to same limit as F-35A.

F-35s technology, once thought to be best of the best, is now outdated. Its IRST is no better than European counterparts, and is actually worse for air-to-air work as it is designed – and uses wavelengths suited for – air-to-ground work; and by the time F-35 enters service, Eurocanards will have AESA radars.

As a ground attack aircraft, it is only somewhat better. It can carry only two 900-kg bombs in its bomb bays, making it a rather average bomber. It is unable to carry out close air support, as it is too vulnerable to get low enough to engage tactical targets, too fast to put weapons precisely on target even if it does come low, and too fuel-thirsty to loiter over ground troops in need of air cover.

In March 2013, F-35A was forbidden from doing following things:

  • descent rates of more than 30 meters per second
  • airspeed above Mach 0,9 (compare to advertised Mach 1,6)
  • angle of attack beyond -5 and +18 degrees (compare to advertised +50 degrees)
  • maneuvers beyond -1 and +5 g (compare to advertised 9 g for A version)
  • takeoffs or landings in formation
  • flying at night or in bad weather
  • using real or simulated weapons
  • rapid stick or rudder movements
  • air-to-air or air-to-ground tracking maneuvers
  • refuelling in the air
  • flying within 40 kilometers from lightning
  • use of electronic countermeasures
  • use of anti-jamming, secure communications or datalinks
  • electro-optical targeting
  • using DAS to detect targets or threats
  • using IFF interrogator
  • using HMD as “primary reference”
  • use of air-to-air or air-to-ground radar modes for electronic attack, sea search, ground-moving targets or close-in air combat modes.

It also had quite a list of other problems:

  • liable to explode if struck with lightning
  • F-135 jet engine exceeds weight capacity of traditional replenishment systems and generates more heat than previous engines
  • extensive damage will require returning aircraft to factory for repairs
  • fuel dump subsystem poses fire hazard
  • survivability issues (rumored to be about stealth)
  • airframe unlikely to last through required lifespan
  • using the afterburner damages the aircraft
  • poor radar performance

But this is hardly end of F-35s troubles list. Performance shortfalls are compounded by development problems: at one point, Lockheed Martin had to cannibalize LRIP production line for spares so prototypes can continue with testing.

F-35s costs are understated. Sometimes-heard 59 and 79 million USD values are those of early days of the programme, specifically from 2002. But even without inflation, costs have doubled by 2012, with flyaway cost being 197 million USD for F-35A, 237,7 million USD for F-35B and 236,8 million USD for F-35C. And these are unlikely to get any lower than they are for very simple reason: modern fighter aircraft are complex, and for them learning curve barely exists. And what of learning curve does exist has already been largely absorbed by reduction in cost which lowered F-35As unit flyaway cost from 207 to 197 million USD. One of reasons is that fighter aircraft get continuous upgrades which do not allow production to stabilize and invest in truly effective cost reduction measures. F-22s unit flyaway costs went backwards late in production: whereas flyaway cost mid-production was 200 million USD, last aircraft produced cost 250 million USD flyaway. Same happened with F-14, F-15 and F-16, due to increased complexity of new technology put in to make them “more capable”; F-16A would, today, cost 30 million USD, but F-16C costs 70 million USD.

F-35 is also very unreliable, which means that pilots won’t be able to fly it as often as required, and it is not meeting reliability growth targets. One in seven training sorties in late 2012 resulted in mission aborts. By late 2012, F-35 was barely achieving one sortie every 3 days. It had 4 flight hours between critical failures, and by 2013 mean elapsed time for engine removal and installation was 52 hours (system treshold being 120 minutes). Flights were also aborted due to battery problems whenever temperature dropped below 15 degrees Celzius, making F-35 utterly unsuitable to Canada, Great Britain or Scandinavian countries.

I have already mentioned HMD problems. These include misaligned horizons; inoperative or flickering displays; double, unfocused, jittery, washed-out and/or latent images. Due to all that confusion, HMD more hurts situational awareness than it helps – and F-35, due to STOVL requirement for Marine version, has nil rearward visibility.

While F-35 has met 7 out of 10 objectives, several objectives – like “begun lab testing” – were impossible to fail. But these do not show how well – or bad – programme is progressing. And in the end, it cannot be expected that dedicated strike aircraft can perform well in air superiority role; role which, despite wishful thinking by weapons designers, is still visual-range unless enemy is outmatched in every way imaginable. But if it is, F-15A and Tornado ADV are perfectly capable of handling him; there is no need for stealth fighters; and if it isn’t, F-35, with its disastrous visual-range performance, cannot be anything more than cannon fodder, soaking up enemy missiles so more capable fighters – be it F-22, F-15 or F-16 – can take out enemy aircraft without heavy losses. But F-35 is too expensive for that, which means that USAF will be in trouble as soon as F-16 is replaced by F-35.

Pig-that-ate-the-Pentagon.Lockheed-Martin flying-pig-325x275

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Posted by picard578 on May 11, 2013



F-22 on IRST


B-2 on IRST


Imaging IRST


Dassault Rafale’s DDM NG


Dassault Rafale’s DDM NG



IR ranging


Typhoon on PIRATE


Typhoon on IRST



Rafale’s DDM NG




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Posted by picard578 on May 11, 2013

Wobek 580839_3895389346728_2107295954_n 161968085 1403306399_d3edd1cb96_z 3951803168_2bbfcb56f8_z 5964513947_f1c57a2dfb 6139622821_0b07bb7e01_b Eurofighter-Typhoon-483.preview F_16_vortex gripen_ungarian_rainbow_radom_2009 Winner-competion-photo-Eurofighter-Typhoon-2011

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Eurofighter Typhoon analysis

Posted by picard578 on May 4, 2013

Program history

Typhoon is a result of a programme to satisfy both German and UK Air Force requirements. In July 1979, air staff from UK, Germany and Italy initiated European Combat Fighter study. In April 1982, preliminary design of ACA (Agile Combat Aircraft) was known, though it had twin tail and cranked delta wing. In December 1983, France and Spain joined up, after which requirements for new 9,5 ton, twin-engined, single-seat, delta-canard fighter were outlined.

More than 25 000 simulations were conducted, aimed at arriving at optimum solution. Results were:

  • air attack does not replace air defense
  • only manned aircraft provide flexibility required for an air defence system
  • quantity cannot replace the quality
  • future air combat is not a stand-off problem, but is highly flexible; avionics and armaments cannot replace superb flight performance on their own
  • radar performance with long detection range, large field of view and multi-target capability is required
  • low observability within certain ranges is important
  • short range combat is dominated by highly unsteady maneuvers, rapidly changing load factors, shorter firing opportunities and smaller space envelopes ending in lower speeds
  • remotely piloted vehicles are not flexible enough and are very expensive

Other requirements were good maintainability and reliability, single seat, short turn-around time, low life-cycle costs, 6 000 hours life time, range of 550 kilometers and ability to take off and land on short runways. Radar was developed by Euroradar consortium.

But there were points of divergence: whereas Luftwaffe preferred weight of 8,5 tons, AdlA preferred 9-ton aircraft and RAF wanted 11-ton one. As a result, upper and lower weight were agreed upon. Soon, Dassault obtained contract to design a fighter with empty weight of 9,25 tons, whereas rest of consortium (BAe, MBB, Aeritalia and CASA) focused on aircraft with empty weight of 9,75 tons. By February 1985, both designs were presented, yet neither fulfilled European Staff Target requirements.

Reason for diverging ideas about weight were different requirements: France wanted export-friendly multirole aircraft, whereas Britain wanted longer-ranged aircraft, capable of reaching Central European battlefield from British Islands, as well as utilizing British engines. Further, it proved impossible to reach an agreement on who will exactly lead the project.

In August 1985, France decided to pursue its own programme after being denied lead in programme, and being only nation with requirement for a carrier capable aircraft.

In 1986, weapons systems companies that were taking part in the project formed joint management company Eurofighter GmbH, and engine companies formed Eurojet GmbH. In 1987, Chiefs of Staff of Air Forces of four countries developing fighter signed European Staff Requirement for Development (ERS-D) of the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA). Aircraft was to be optimised for air-to-air combat in both BVR and WVR regimes, with capability to perform Air Defence, Air Superiority, Offensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Offensive Air Support, Maritime Attack and Reconnaissance.

Engine designs were developed by Rolls-Royce and Snecma, both designs optimized for aircraft proposals of their respective countries. This paid off when France left the project to develop carrier-capable Rafale, utilizing Snecma’s engines. Development of EFA continued with original focus on air-to-air missions.

Production contracts were awarded as following: 33% to each Germany and UK, 21% to Italy and 13% to Spain. This corresponded to number of aircraft that were to be procured; out of total of 760 aircraft, UK and Germany each were to purchase 250, Italy was to purchase 160 aircraft and Spain 100.

In 1992, in light of changed political situation, review of the project was undertaken. Requirement document was completely reconfirmed, whereas industry stated that baseline Eurofighter is still the most cost-effective solution. In view of reduced threat, however, number of aircraft was reduced from 720 to 602.

Technical problems made it impossible to adhere to original timetable: first flight of a prototype, planned for 1991, took place in April 1994. In February 1992, Spain announced that it will only buy 87 instead of 100 aircraft, and Germany reduced its purchase to 140. Due to German reluctance, Eurofighter consortium undertook study on how to reduce Eurofighter’s unit price. This study was delivered to governments in October, after which UK signalled intention to continue with original programme, alone of needed, and suggested triliteral continuation of programme to Italy and Spain, after which Germany too decided to continue with project. Large part in force reductions was played by budget cuts following fall of Soviet Union.

In December 1993, governments agreed to continue the project, although with changes to overall configuration of the aircraft; consequently, project was renamed “Eurofighter 2000”. In April 1995, memorandum on dividing costs incurred due to redevelopment was signed.

Project was especially important for UK and Spain, which – unlike other countries – used project to develop military technology, contrary to current trend that military adapts technologies developed for civilian purposes.

In 2002, Austria became a procurement partner in programme, and first aircraft were delivered to Germany and Spain in 2003, with Italy receiveing first Typhoon in 2005. In 2007, multi-role Typhoons were delivered to the UK and Austria. In 2006, Saudi Arabia selected Typhoon, though only after forcing UK to cease investigation of bribery in Al Yamamah weapons deal between UK and Saudi Arabia. First Saudi Typhoon was delivered in 2009.


Eurofighter Typhoon is a relaxed-stability twin-engined tailless canard-delta design. Design requirements were subsonic, transsonic and supersonic agility. Aerodynamic instability results in decreased lift-dependent trim drag

Airframe is made with generous use of composites, titanium and aluminiom-lithium alloys (over 70%) in order to reduce weight. Side-effect of that is that it is more resistant to corrosion, and thus easier to maintain in humid environments. However, Typhoon is not suitable for the carrier aircraft due to the canard placement as well as structural reinforcements that would have to be done in order for airframe to withstand stresses of carrier operations.

Use of composites, as well as general shape, results in reduced frontal RCS. Aircraft also uses structural health monitoring and automatic equipment failure detection equipment.

Wings and canards

Typhoon’s canards (canard, fr. = duck) are very large and placed up front so as to minimze interaction with the wing; in essence, canards are performing the same function as tail does in tailed aircraft. Position results in minimal induced and trim drag, as well as minimal interaction with air intakes, which are mounted under fuselage to maximise air flow at high angles of attack, and is well suited for long-range supersonic aircraft. While close-coupled canard typically results in increased lift at higher angles of attack, effect is irrelevant at supersonic speeds. Eurofighter also stated that Typhoon’s high level of instability resulted in lift advantage due to close coupled canards being minor. As a control surface, long-arm canard is far more effective than either tail or close-coupled canard of similar size, as it offers faster control response due to longer moment arm, and if stall angle of canard is lower than that of the wing, aircraft is effectively stall-proof. As all positions other than low-and-forward and high-and-aft have been deemed aerodynamic disasters, low-position long-arm canard was eventually chosen.

Compared to tailed delta configuration, Typhoon’s configuration has the advantage of larger wing area (made possible by not using the horizontal tail surfaces) as well as the fact that canard actually adds lift during the turn, while tail detracts from the total lift. However, there is no interaction between canard and the wing, and as such wing has to rely solely on lift provided by vortices created by the wing itself during the high-alpha maneuvers. Leading-edge slats are used to improve aerodynamic wing lift during maneuvers. Canards are also more effective than the tail due to the longer moment arm they offer, thus requiring less force to achieve the same effect. At supersonic flight, chosen configuration has additional benefit compared to tailed delta: as it suffers smaller aerodynamic centre shift with Mach number, it has reduced trim drag, and there is no adverse tailplane/afterbody pressure drag interference. However, canards are inefficient as a roll control device, so wing has to be stiffer than in tailed delta configuration.

Wings are positioned low on the body, and are of normal delta shape with 53 degree sweep, cropped tips, offering large wing area and volume at light weight. This shape also causes creation of vortices even at relatively low angles of attack, increasing the avaliable lift beyond one caused by normal aerodynamic flow; as a result, stall angle of delta wing is higher than usual even without high-lift devices. Size of vortices increases with angle of attack. However, addition of LERX (for which there is enough space between wing leading edge and front end of intakes) would strenghten these vortices and cause a major improvement in Typhoon’s already good turn performance. Another importance of delta wing is in its dynamic vortex burst behavior; namely, a delta wing that is pitching up will produce vortex burst that lags behind when compared to wortex burst for same angle of attack under static conditions; result is higher instanteneous turn rate for delta wing. Amount of lag also increases as speed of pitch-up increases; result is that pitch-up condition creates major increase in lift compared to static condition. High drag, however, means that delta wing has lower lift-to-drag ratio than regular wings unless paired with high-lift devices such as close-coupled canards which increase lift for most given AoAs, but are absent from Typhoon. Wings also have high-lift devices in form of leading edge slats; these can be deployed to increase lift during takeoff and landing, and also during combat to prevent air flow separation at moderate angles of attack, though latter is not always done because of large increase in drag it causes. When deployed during maneuvers, they also improve directional stability. As tips are cropped, tip drag is lowered at high angles of attack. Large wing reduces aerodynamic effects of heavy external weapons stores, but also limits effectiveness of trailling-edge control surfaces. Additional effect is increased effectiveness of control surfaces as dynamic pressure increases, whereas in tailed aircraft, effectiveness is reduced with increase in dynamic pressure. Wings are also elastic, able to twist during maneuvers in order to prevent tip stall. However, fact that some control surfaces are at rear end of the wing limits their effectiveness at supersonic speeds, and delta wing itself restricts supersonic maneuverability by making aircraft stable. This in turn means that aft control surfaces no longer help the lift, as they do in unstable aircraft, but reduce the effective lift.

Low position of the wing results in better takeoff performance, better view from the cockpit, less induced drag, and less lateral stability compared to high position. Compared to mid position, however, it has more interference drag. It also results in 3-8 degrees of effective dihedral even before any actual anhedral/dihedral of the wing is considered.

Low wing loading and large amount of vortex lift result in good instantenenous and sustained turn rates, shorter takeoff distance, but also in bad low-altitude performance, making it obvious that aircraft is designed as air superiority platform.

Both wings and canards are swept back and sized so as not to enter shock wave cone.


On both sides of the fuselage, Typhoon has vortice generators, used to create fuselage lift at high AoA.

Intakes are two-dimensional and placed under the hull, in a fashion similar to the F-16. That arrangement has the advantage of fuselage serving as the air flow straightener, improving air flow into the engine during high-alpha maneuvers and thus preventing loss of thrust. Intakes are also distanced from the fuselage, preventing ingestion of turbulent, low-energy boundary layer air, which would reduce engine efficiency. Due to their position however, they are subject to magnified side-slip effects.

Intakes have lips which are used to affect flow of the air into them, additionally improving intake of air at high angles of attack, as well as adjusting amount of air influx depending on the current speed, thus ensuring optimum engine performance over very wide flight envelope. These lips, however, add to the mechanical complexity. Air ducts themselves are curved, which serves dual purpose of reducing frontal RCS, as well as causing a series of shock waves to slow down air flow to subsonic speeds during supersonic flight – that slowdown being a requirement for engine operation at supersonic speeds. Additional shock is caused by diverter plate above intakes.

As intakes are designed for a supersonic performance, sidewalls and lip tips are not sufficiently blunt to significantly delay air flow separation; as a result, air flow losses increase sharply after passing 30 degrees of alpha. At 70 degrees, losses can be as high as 20%.

Design of cockpit and fuselage in general provides a very good visibility for the pilot, even to the rear. However, nose shape and large canards placed up-front mean that lookdown capability is somewhat limited, thus making carrier variant of the aircraft unlikely.

There are four semi-conformal stations for BVR missiles on the fuselage; however, there are no wingtip stations for WVR missiles, as wing tips are taken up by defensive aids subsystems. There is total of 12 weapons stations capable of carrying missiles, with centerline station being used for fuel tank.


While an all-moving fin was considered, standard fin was chosen to save weight despite the reduction in the control power. As aircraft bank, using lift from wings and not tail input for turning, reduction in control power of the fin is mostly inconsequential for dogfight. However, fin is still important for supersonic maneuvering; as a result, it is very large. Too large vertical fin can result in problems if roll is experienced, causing aircraft to enter sideslip in direction of the roll, and start spiralling to the ground; too small fin can result in Dutch roll, which while not inherently dangerous does result in reduced performance.

Typhoon’s fin is sized for directional control at Mach 2.


Engines are Eurojet EJ-200 turbofan engines, and were specifically designed for high thrust and fast reactions. They allow aircraft to reach top speed of Mach 2, and also allow for supercruise of Mach 1,4 when clean, or Mach 1,2 in air-to-air configuration. Combination of strong engine, low wing loading and long arm canards means that Typhoon is able to take off with 700 meter runway.

Each engine produces 60 kN of dry thrust and 90 kN of thrust in afterburner at peacetime setting, with wartime setting being 69 kN dry and 95 kN in afterburner. Specific fuel consumption is 21-23 g/kNs in dry thrust and 47-49 g/kNs in afterburner. As Typhoon has 4 500 kg of fuel, this allows for 8,5 minutes of afterburning thrust.

Landing gear

Typhoon uses tricycle landing gear, with two wheels aft and one forward, which results in stress due to landing being better distributed.

Situational Awareness


Canopy is of bubble shape with bow frame. While bow frame does limit forward visibility, it leaves rear hemisphere completely unobstructed. This shape allows for very good visibility from cockpit, which is crucial for dogfight.


Most useful sensor for detecting enemy aircraft in combat environment is definetly IRST. As IRST is passive, it cannot be jammed or detected by the opponent, providing unparalelled tactical advantage. Image from IRST can be overlayed on both HMS and HUD.

Typhoon’s PIRATE IRST can detect subsonic fighter aircraft, head-on, from distance of at least 90 kilometers, and at least 145 kilometers from the rear. Identification can be done at 40 kilometers, which is slightly beyond visual range. (All values are, however, for optimal conditions).

In terms of mission profiles, it is able to perform target acquisition and identification, as well as allow for low level night flight.


Current Typhoon’s radar is a mechanically scanned pulse doppler radar. Developed as ECR-90, and renamed into CAPTOR, it operates in X band, and weights 193 kilograms. Operating modes are long range air-to-air (BVR), close range visual (WVR) and air-to-surface. It has track while scan ability, and can be slaved directly to HMD. Detection range against 5 m2 targets is over 160 kilometers.

Defensive systems

Defensive system – DASS/Praetorian – is housed internally. It allows fully autimatized prioritisation of threats as well as response to said threats, with manual override being avaliable.

It has electronic support measures, radar warner, laser warner, active missile approach warner, DRFM jammer, two towed decoys, chaff, flares. Jamming pod and towed decoy are housed on the wing tips.

Radar and laser warner allow passive Typhoon to detect active fighter from longer distance than active aircraft can detect it, and as such provide a large situation awareness advantage.

Missile Approach Warner gives 360*360 degree situational awareness.



Typhoon’s gun is Mauser BK-27, a 27-milimeter gas operated revolver cannon developed in late 1960s for Panavia Tornado. It fires 27×114 mm high explosive shells at 1700 rounds per minute. Standard loadout of 150 shells allows for 5,3 seconds of continuous firing. Being a revolver cannon, it reaches full rate of fire in around 0,05 seconds, compared to 0,5 seconds for a typical Gattling design. Relatively heavy 260 g shell is also very destructive, an important aspect due to high structural strength of modern fighter aircraft. Impact fuse operates to 85 degrees of impact angle.


Typhoon’s primary WVR missiles are IRIS-T and AIM-132 ASRAAM. IRIS-T is short-range IR missile equipped with thrust vectoring. It is capable of engaging targets at any angle around aircraft, even those that are directly behind, due to its lock on after launch capability; lock-on before launch capability is also present. Fuze is radar proximity based, and seeker is roll-pitch infrared imaging seeker with 128*128 resolution and +-90* look angle for high-off-boresight engagement capability. Using imaging technology makes it resistant to flares (but not to jamming). Target can be designated by either radar or pilots’ helmet mounted sight, and IRIS-T offers 360 degree defense capability. Maximum intercept range is 25 kilometers, speed is Mach 3 and it can pull 60 g turns. Missile is propelled by a solid propellant motor.

Aside from already described, IRIS-T has one ace up the sleeve; namely, ability to destroy incoming missiles, both air-to-air and surface-to-air ones. While this is definetly not a foolproof system, and it is impossible to predict how well it will work, if it does work it can reduce number of BVR missiles aircraft has to contend with, but also most likely force pilot to engage enemy with gun.

Development of IRIS-T started after Cold War, when evaluation of systems in MiG-29 revealed multiple aspects in which Russian AA-11 was superior to US Sidewinder, then in use in Luftwaffe. At the same time, extensive air combat simulations showed that far more targets will enter short range of 500 to 5000 meters than previously assumed.

IRIS-T concept was presented in 1995, and development started in 1996 under German leadership. Germany also absorbed 45% of total development costs of 300 million Euros, or 135 million Euros. Partner nations were Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Canada and Spain, with Diehl BGT Defence assuming overall responsibility. Missile entered service in December 2005.

During testing, IRIS-T achieved a direct hit against target with infrared countermeasures; I have not found data about nature of countermeasures in question.

AIM-132 ASRAAM is, when compared to IRIS-T, longer-ranged but less agile, being able to pull 50 g turns, reach range of 50 kilometers and speed of Mach 3. Minimum range is 300 meters.

Development of ASRAAM started in 1980s as a joint project between UK and Germany. Unlike with IRIS-T, ASRAAM was not intended as a highly maneuverable missile, as its main purpose was to bridge gap between AIM-120 and Sidewinder. As such, ASRAAM did not use thrust vectoring technology, putting emphasis instead on high velocity and increased range.

In 1990, however, reunification of Germany gave a Luftwaffe look at Russian short-ranged Vympel R-73. It proved to be more dangerous missile than previously anticipated, outperforming Western IR missiles by wide margin in every category save for range. Germany consequently (and correctly) decided that AIM-132 performance is lacking, and decided to develop IRIS-T.

After that, UK looked for a new seeker, selecting Hughes infrared imaging seeker, same one as used in AIM-9X. Seeker has high off-boresight capability of +-90 degrees and lock on after launch capability.

Typhoon’s primary BVR missile is MBDA Meteor, which is not yet in service. It is able to reach range of over 100/150 kilometers and speed of over Mach 4. It can be guided by its launch platform, another fighter aircraft or even AEW&C platform.

Two intakes at each side of lower body are designed to reduce missile’s radar cross section. However, these may limit missile’s maneuvering capability.

Aside from these, Typhoon is capable of carrying US-designed AIM-9X WVRAAM and AIM-120 BVRAAM. AIM-9X Sidewinder has minimum range of under 1 kilometers and maximum range of 35,4 kilometers. It is capable of reaching Mach 4, and can pull maximum of 50 g. AIM-120D AMRAAM has minimum range of 900 meters, maximum range of 110/160 kilometers and speed of Mach 4; however, Typhoon is more likely to use AIM-120C-5 which has same speed but maximum range of 75/105 kilometers.

It should be noted that ranges given are maximum ones in ideal position: at high altitude, with enemy aircraft coming head on. At low altitude, range is 1/5 of that at high altitude, and range against aircraft in flight is 1/4 of that against aircraft in attack. Also, while it can be safely assumed that IR missiles can be released at 9 g turns, such limits are not so clear for BVR missiles.

Air-to-ground weapons

Typhoon is capable of using variety of air-to-ground weapons, ranging from bombs to cruise missiles. Precision weapons are laser-guided Paveway bomb, GPS guided JDAM bomb, Storm Shadow cruise missile, Taurus cruise missile, ALARM anti-radiation missile, HARM anti-radiation missile, Brimstone anti-armor missile, BL-755 cluster bomb, Harpoon anti-ship missile, and Penguin anti-ship missile; in future it could use DWS-39 cluster submunitions dispenser missile.

Paveway “bomb” is actually entire series of guidance kits for GBU bombs developed in the United States, and Paveway bombs are actually already existing weapons fitted with Paveway guidance kits. Bombs weight 113, 227, 454 and 907 kilograms, and are used for attacks on both soft and hard targets. Similarly, JDAM is GPS guidance kit for bombs of 924, 959 and 459 kg. JDAM kit costs 20 000 USD, and consists of aerodynamic control and stability surfaces, as well as onboard computer attacked to the Inertial Measurement Unit; IMU is updated regularly through GPS. Once the bomb is launches, it takes around 30 seconds for GPS to get a fix on its exact location.

First test drop of Paveway occured in 1965, and was first used operationally over Vietnam in 1968, where it achieved successes. In 1972, Paveway II follow-up program started. Paveway kit had bang-bang guidance system, which means that control surfaces are either fully deflected or not at all; this was finally upgraded in Paveway III, which also enabled attacks from low altitude. Paveway bombs come in general purpose, demolition and cluster variants.

Storm Shadow is fire-and-forget air-launched cruise missile. It has reduced RCS and range of 250-400 kilometers, flying at Mach 0,8. Missile weights 1300 kg with 450 kg BROACH warhead that consists of penetrating charge, used to clear soil, and a delayed-fuze main warhead. It is fire-and-forget missile, and once launched, is fully autonomous. Attack on target is done in “climb then dive” pattern to achieve best penetration. Missile is optimized for pre-planned attacks on static targets, and uses passive imaging infrared sensor with autonomous target recognition capability. At terminal phase of flight missile climbs, ejects the ballistic cap allowing its IR seeker to acquire the target, and descends towards target, constantly redefining the aim point. If attack is aborted, or target cannot be acquired/identified, missile flies to a predetermined crash site.

Taurus KEPD 350 is air-launched cruise missile developed in partnership between LFK and Saab Bofors Dynamics. It can reach over 500 kilometers at maximum speed of Mach 0,8-0,9. Double 500 kg warhead, called Mephisto, consists of precharge and initial penetrating charge to clear soil and enter a bunker, and a main warhead with variable delay fuze. Missile can be used for attacks against static targets and ships, and includes self-defense countermeasures. Flight path is programmed before use by mission planners, based on data on enemy air defenses. Missile is typically GPS guided, though it can navigate long distances without GPS support thanks to INS (Inertial Navigation System), IBN (Image Based Navigation) and TRN (Terrain Referenced Navigation) systems. Like with Storm Shadow, attack is of climb-and-dive nature, and high-resolution IR camera, used to help navigation, can also be used to help targeting.

ALARM is British anti-radiation missile used primarly for SEAD. It is 4,3 meters long, has wing span of 0,72 meters, diameter of 0,244 meters and weights 265 kg at launch. Seeker is wideband RF antenna, which according to Jane’s consists of four antennas forming a fixed two-axis interferometer with lower mid-band to high-band coverage. Seeker is programmed to select highest-value secondary target should primary target go offline. Warhed is a heavy metal (probably Tungsten) casing blast fragmentation device, designed to produce high-velocity fragments which perforate antenna and any supporting electronics. Tail section houses two-stage parachute used for loitering modes, allowing missile to stay in the air for extended periods of time, forcing SAMs in the area to stay off-line. When loitering, missile climbs to altitude of 13 kilometers before activating parachute. Missile homes on to radar’s side lobes, and seeker typically knows type of target it is attacking, allowing warhead to go off at optimum altitude from target.

ALARM has five operating modes. First three, used when location of emitter is known, are direct mode, in which missile directly attacks nearest active target; loiter mode, in which missile loiters with parachute above nearest known target, forcing target – and any nearby – to stay offline; dual mode, in which missile flies in attack mode towards designated target, but switches to loiter mode should target go offline. Remaining two, used when location of emitter is not known prior to launch, or when missiles are used against mobile SAMs, are Corridor/Aera supression mode, in which missile climbs steeply from low launch altitude and then coasts in shallow dive, waiting for targets to come on-line. Universal Mode is similar, but is used for high- to medium- -altitude launches, providing better range and larger search pattern.

Missile can be programmed on the ground, or just prior to the launch. It is launched directly from the rail, in a similar fashion to Sidewinder, and has range of over 90 kilometers.

AGM-88 HARM is US anti-radiation missile which uses dual-thrust rocket motor. It weights 360 kg at launch and has range of over 46 kilometers; seeker is a broadband spiral antenna. Once launched, it can operate in one of three modes: preemptive, missile-as-sensor and self-protect.

In preemptive mode, missile is fired before locking on a target; RWRs can then be used to locate threat radars. Advanced HDAM version has GPS/INS guidance, which can be used to restrict missile to engaging targets in certain area. Further, seeker is able to recognise pulse repetition frequencies of threat radars, allowing it to select a specific radar operating in any single band.

Brimstone is UK dual mode radar/laser-guided ground attack missile. It is used against armored targets, and uses millimeter-wave radar for target acquisition, which can be programmed to only activate after passing a certain point, so as to minimise potential for friendly fire. Missile uses dual warhead, with first warhead eliminating reactive armor and primary warhead penetrating main armor of the vehicle. It can be used in both direct and indirect mode; in former, aircraft’s own sensors are used to designate targets.

It is a fire-and-forget weapon, and is programmable to adapt to specific mission environments, including ability to find targets within a certain area or to self-destruct if targets cannot be found. Several missiles can be fired in a salvo against multiple targets. Missile weights 48,5 kg with 300 g precursor warhead and 6,2 kg main warhead. It is 1,8 meters long. Radar seeker operates at near-optical wavelengths, theoretically allowing for target recognition.

BL-755 cluster bomb is primarly used against armored vehicles, with other vehicles and personnell being a secondary target. It weights 264 kg, has shaped charge HEAT warhead and can produce over 200 000 fragments. Payload consists of 147 bomblets in 7 containers, each containg 7 sections with 3 bomblets each.

DWS-90 / BK90 is gliding stand-off cluster bomb (submunitions dispenser). It contains 72 bomblets, and like BL-755 is banned in multiple countries due to submunitions being a threat long after the combat stopped, thus violating Geneva conventions (submunitions released from US cluster bombs during Vietnam war are still killing civillians). It is not yet integrated on Typhoon.

AGM-84 Harpoon is anti-ship sea-skimming missile with active radar seeker. It weights 526 kg, with 221 kg warhead, and can reach range of over 124 kilometers, speed of 850 kph and maximum altitude of 910 meters. Length of air-launched Block II Harpoon is 3,84 meters. Guidance system is GPS-aided inertial navigation system.

Penguin missile is a littoral anti-ship missile developed by Norway with financial support by US and West Germany. It was first NATO anti-ship missile with IR seeker for terminal guidance (pre-terminal guidance is inertial). Mk 3 version is 370 kg heavy, 3,2 meters long with 120 kg warhead and range of 55 km using solid fuel. It can follow a waypoint flight path.


Flyaway cost per aircraft was stated in 2002 to be 60 million Euros per aircraft, or 63 million then-year USD. When corrected for inflation, resultant value would be 80,46 million USD in 2012 USD. However, current unit flyaway cost seems to be between 100 and 125 million USD, depending on version. Unit procurement cost is 144 to 199 million USD, depending on Tranche.

Jane’s has stated that operating cost per hour is 18 000 USD. This, while higher than Rafale’s 16 500 USD, is identical to F-18s cost of 18 000 USD per hour and lower than F-15s 30 000 USD per hour or F-35s likely 48 800 USD per hour.

Tactical analysis

Eurofighter Typhoon is a highly maneuverable fighter, with low wing loading and high thrust-to-weight ratios, as well as good weapons and cockpit visibility. Its usage of revolver cannon and external missile carriage allow pilot to exploit fleeting firing opportunities whereas good rearward visibility allows him to avoid being ambushed from the rear.

However, its fuel fraction is too low for combat-useful supercruising performance, and it is heavier than Rafale or Gripen, which does hurt its maneuvering performance. There is also rather large tactical deadweight in the nose.

Strategic analysis

Typhoon definetly isn’t cheap fighter; with flyaway cost above 100 million USD and maintenance cost per flight hour of 18 000 USD it is most expensive modern fighter aircraft in Europe, unless F-35 (which is actually a ground attack aircraft, and is not yet in service) is counted. Thus it is questionable wether it can provide required force presence in case of a major war.

Further, it is limited to large, visible and vulnerable concrete runways. This means that it is in danger of both being attacked on the ground, attacked at takeoff/landing or being grounded by destroyed air strip. Maintenance is also more complex than that of SAABs Gripen.

Comparision with other fighters

Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale is Typhoon’s primary competitor. While some hold Rafale to be primarly a bomber and not an air superiority aircraft, that is wrong as Rafale has all characteristics of fighter aircraft: low wing loading, high thrust-to-weight ratio, high structural g load and good cockpit visibility. Rafale also has higher fuel fraction than Typhoon, allowing it greater endurance, and higher structural load factor. Other advantages are lower wing loading at 50% fuel and lower drag when turning, provided by cleaner aerodynamics and close-coupled canards. Typhoon does have higher thrust-to-weight ratio, reducing Rafale’s advantage due to lower drag.


F-35 is a radar LO strike aircraft, made obvious by its fat shape, bad rearward cockpit visibility, high wing loading and low thrust-to-weight ratio. Its aerodynamics also mean that it has less vortex lift and less body lift avaliable when turning, excaberating the problem and giving it far worse lift-to-drag and lift-to-weight ratios than those of Typhoon.

Its internal weapons carriage does give it some drag reduction, which is easily offset by increased weight, complexity and reduced payload. Weapons payload in aerodynamically clean air-to-air configuration is identical, with both fighters having 4 BVRAAMs, but Typhoon’s conformal carriage provides it with faster response time as F-35 has to open doors to fire missiles. Similar situation is with guns: whereas F-35s GAU-22/A has a higher rate of fire, 3 300 rounds per minute when compared to 1 700 for BK-27, weight “thrown” by both guns is 7,4 kg per second for BK-27 and 10,12 kg for GAU-22/A. But while BK-27 reaches full rate of fire within 0,05 seconds, GAU-22/A reaches it 0,4 seconds. Thus even assuming that F-35 pilot opened gun doors beforehand, BK-27 would have fired 13 rounds weighting 3,38 kg in first half of second, compared to 16 rounds weighting 3,44 kg for GAU-22/A. If pilot did not open gun doors, then GAU-22/A will only start firing in 0,5 seconds, and reach full rate of fire in 0,9 seconds.

Where air-to-air is concerned, Typhoon also has advantage in sensors department; while F-35s IRST is only optimized for ground targets, Typhoon’s PIRATE’s position and wavelengths are optimised for air-to-air combat. F-35 itself has huge IR signature thanks to its fat shape and a powerful engine which has 7% more thrust than Typhoon’s two engines combined, yet has almost no IR reduction measures.


As can be seen, Typhoon is a very capable aircraft. However, it is also costly and cannot provide very large battlefield presence. Thus, it should be complemented by the cheaper aircraft, such as Saab Gripen A/C or F-16A, albeit aircraft in question should be equipped with QWIP IRST and DRFM jammers.

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Aerodynamic families of jet figters

Posted by picard578 on May 4, 2013

This is division of aircraft I did by their aerodynamic characteristics, primarly interaction of wing and body:

Me-262 family


Gloster Meteor

Aircraft with two large engines mounted on swept wing. Other than that, aerodynamics are mostly similar to preceding piston-engine fighters.

P-80 family


Orange Blossom Kikka

Engines sunk into the body, with small air intakes.

F-86 family





Aircraft with tubular body and large, lightly loaded wing. Dependant solely on wing for lift during both level flight and maneuvers. Excellent air superiority aircraft primarly due to low wing loading, but angle-of-attack limited due to the intake on the nose.

F-101 family





Aircraft with tubular body that produces almost no lift during maneuvers, and small, highly-loaded wing that is aerodynamically almost completely separate from body. End result is that aircraft turning performance is entirely dependant on lift from wing. Performance-wise, aircraft in this group are bombers and bomber interceptors, not air superiority aircraft, and are as result inferior to all families of aircraft other than F-4 in air-to-air combat.

MiG-23 family


Similar to F-101 family, but with square body. Performance is very similar. F-111 would also have been in this group had USAF been stupid enough to keep it as air superiority aircraft.

F-4 family



Swept-back wing mounted low on prominent body. Low degree of wing-body blending. Very bad air superiority aircraft, but good bomber interceptors.

F-15 family



Aircraft with high-position wing and large amount of both body and wing lift when in level flight, but less so during maneuvers. Air intakes are not shielded, which may create problems at high angles of attack. Good dogfighters, interceptors and strike aircraft.

Su-27 family







In essence, a mix of F-15 and F-16 families. There is a degree of wing-body blending, and intakes are under the body, helping thrust at high angles of attack. Good dogfighters, interceptors and strike aircraft.

Mirage family

Mirage III

Mirage IV

Mirage 5

Mirage 2000




An obvious feature is low-position delta wing with very low degree at best of wing-body blending. Turn performance mostly dependant on wing lift, though well-designed body and high-lift devices can change that to an extent. Primarly supersonic interceptors, though they are also good dogfighters.

F-16 family



Saab Gripen

Dassault Rafale

Primary feature is large degree of wing-body blending, as well as high-lift devices which help both wing lift and body lift during turn – in form of LEX and/or close-coupled canards. Body lift is high both during turn and in level flight. Result is that aircraft in this group are both good strike aircraft and excellent dogfighters.


F-35 – a mix of F-101 family, F-15 family and F-16 family. Wing is small and highly loaded, and while body does produce some lift, amount produced during maneuvers is lot less than in F-16 family. Amount of wing-body interaction is also smaller. Wing itself is in a similar position to F-15 family. End performance is most similar to F-101 family. Good strike aircraft, but almost useless in air superiority role.

End note

Aerodynamically, F-16 family is best, followed by Su-27 family (very closely), Mirage family, F-15 family, P-80 family, F-86 family, Me-262 family, MiG-23 family and F-101 family (in that order).

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