Dassault Rafale vs Eurofighter Typhoon
Posted by picard578 on November 1, 2015
This article will compare two medium-weight Eurocanards. Both aircraft trace their origins to a joint European project. In 1970s, France, Germany and United Kingdom realized a requirement for new fighter aircraft. By 1979, TKF-90 concept with cranked delta wing and close-coupled canard was developed. British engineers rejected thrust vectoring but agreed with overall concept. Same year MBB and BAe presented a formal proposal for collaborative fighter to their respective governments, and in October of the year Dassault joined the ECF team. National prototypes were constructed, with France constructing ACX, Rafale’s precursor, and UK constructing single-engined P.106 (which resembled Gripen) and P.110 (twin-engined fighter). All three proposals were of close-coupled canard-delta configuration. West Germany continued to develop TKF-90 concept, based around combination of thrust vectoring and long arm canards. In 1981 project collapsed; while Dassault’s demand for design leadership was granted, France opted out for two reasons. First, it was to preserve Snecma’s technological level and ability to design engines (new fighter would use British engines). Second, France insisted on new fighter being carrier-capable, whereas other nations had no such requirement.
Agile Combat Aircraft followed in 1982, and in 1983 Italy, Germany, France, UK and Spain launched the Future European Fighter Aircraft programme. Aircraft was to have short takeoff and landing as well as beyond visual range combat capabilities, but programme fell apart (again) when France (again) requested new fighter to be carrier-capable and demanded leading role in design. Italy, West Germany and UK thus established a new EFA programme, with Spain joining in 1985. France continued to pursue its own ACX project, utilizing ACX technology demonstrator whose construction was ordered in 1982 for purposes of FEFA project.
France was sole developer of Rafale’s airframe, avionics, propulsion systems and armament. At the same time, Typhoon ended up using German aerodynamic design, multinational PIRATE IRST (with Italian Galileo being the prime contractor and Spanish Technobit as well as British/French Thales contributing), British engine design, German gun and British, German, US and multinational missiles.
France started construction of Rafale A technology demonstrator in 1984, and demonstrator was rolled out in 1985, with maiden flight being carried out in 1986. During test programme, it reached speed of Mach 2, and 42.000 ft altitude. It was initially powered by F404 engine, with Snecma M88 replacing port F404 in demonstrator. In such configuration, Rafale A managed to reach Mach 1,4 in dry thrust and Mach 2,0 with only F404 in afterburner while M88 remained in dry thrust.
In 1985 in Turin, West Germany, UK and Italy agreed to go ahead with Eurofighter and confirmed that Spain and France were not proceeding as members of the project. Later same year Spain rejoined the project despite pressure from France. By 1986, excessive costs caused political issues but these were resolved; in same year, BAe EAP was rolled out and carried out its first flight.
In 1988, French government awarded Dassault a contract for four prototypes: one Rafale C, two Rafale Ms and one Rafale B. Fall of Berlin Wall led to Rafale not entering service in 1996 as planned. In 1991, Rafale C production prototype carried out its first flight; only one was built due to budget constraints. Compared to Rafale A, it was smaller, more stealthy and had better optimized aerodynamics. It also had gold-plated canopy and utilized radar absorbent paint as well as large amount of composites. Dassault also rejected variable engine inlets and air brake. Production of first aircraft series started in 1992 but was suspended in 1995, to be resumed in 1997. Aircraft entered service in 2001.
Typhoon’s first production contract was likewise signed in 1988, and that same year saw the name “Typhoon” adopted. In 1991 Germany wanted to withdraw from project and develop a smaller, lighter aircraft on its own but was unable to do so due to binding contracts signed and the fact that large amount of money had been spent already. Spain confirmed its order in 1996 and Germany in 1997.
1994 saw first flights of two development aircraft, DA1 and DA2, equipped with RB199 engines. First aircraft equipped with EJ200s, DA3, flew in 1995, followed in 1996 by two-seater DA6. First production contract was signed in 1998, and Eurofighter International was established in 1999. In 2003, first series production aircraft flew from Manching. Aircraft entered service in 2003.
Impact on pilot’s skill
Most important factors in fighter design are ones that directly affect pilot: sortie rate / maintenance downtime, operating cost, user interface and reliability. Good enough pilot will compensate for aircraft’s weaknesses and focus on strengths, and even if aircraft is inferior across the board, he will be able to beat the opponent through tactics. How important training is was shown clearly in Vietnam: early on, USAFs F-4s achieved negative 2:1 exchange ratios against NVAF MiG-19 and MiG-21. Once USAF put some effort into pilot training, they started regularly achieving positive 2:1 exchange ratios. This is despite the fact that in dogfight, angles fighter (MiG) has no inherent advantage over the energy fighter (F-4) – or the opposite. In fact, MiGs had advantage in Vietnam due to smaller size and less smoky engines.
Rafale can fly 2,7 hours per day. Direct operating cost per hour of flight is 16.500 USD, and fuel consumption is 7.808 kg/h dry and 25.126 kg/h wet. Typhoon can fly 2,4 hours per day with direct operating cost per hour of flight of 18.000 USD, and fuel consumption is 9.936 kg/h dry and 31.752 kg/h wet. As it can be seen, both aircraft allow pilots necessary 30 hours per month of training. With Rafale, price will be 495.000 USD, compared to 540.000 USD for Typhoon. Assuming that maximum number of hours is flown by both aircraft (81 for Rafale and 72 for Typhoon), cost will be 1.336.500 USD for Rafale and 1.296.000 USD for Typhoon. If Rafale flies 72 hours per month, price will be 1.188.000 USD. Overall, Rafale gives only a slight advantage in terms of pilot training when compared to Typhoon, one unlikely to be decisive.
Rafale’s primary air-to-air sensor is OSF optical sensor suite on top of the nose, with 80/130 km range. It consists of IRST sensor with 40 km identification range and video camera with 45-50 km identification range. In addition, it has RBE-2 radar with 139/208 km detection range, two fisheye IR MAWS sensors and 4 RWR sensors, as well as laser warners. MAWS and RWR sensors provide spherical coverage, and can be used to generate firing solution. It has framed canopy providing 360* horizontal and 197,7* vertical visibility, including 16* over the nose, 1,7* over the tail and 27* over the sides, with a maximum of 54* over the side visibility. RBE-2 has 120* angular coverage while RBE-2AA (AESA) has 140* angular coverage.
Typhoon has PIRATE IRST with 90/145 km detection range and 40 km identification range. In addition, it has CAPTOR radar with 185 km detection range, three radar-based MAWS and two ESM/ECM pods (presumably containing 4 RWR sensors) as well as laser warners. As with Rafale, MAWS and RWR sensors provide spherical coverage, but as MAWS is radar-based and RWRs are positioned on wing tips, it is unlikely they can be used to generate firing solution. It has framed canopy providing 360* horizontal and 197,8* vertical visibility, including 14,5* over the nose, 3,3* over the tail and a maximum of 47* over the sides. Captor M offers 140* azimuth and 120* elevation coverage, compared to 200* azimuth coverage for Captor E. It should be noted that RBE-2, RBE-2AA and Captor E will all loose on detection range near limits of their coverage.
Overall situational awareness can be said to be similar, with Typhoon having advantage in radar range and coverage while Rafale has advantage of passive IR MAWS. While Typhoon has longer-ranged IRST, this is compensated for by Rafale’s lower IR signature (see next section) and higher visual ID range. Rafale has advantage during dogfight due to better over the nose and over the side visibility, allowing it to more easily pull lead without loosing the target. This is also advantage during takeoffs and landings at short air strips and aircraft carriers.
Stealth can be divided into several areas: visual, radar and IR. Visual stealth refers to how easy is to to see the aircraft with Mk.I eyeball. Radar stealth can refer to two things: aircraft’s radar cross section (RCS), and aircraft’s radar emissions (EMCON). IR stealth refers to aircraft’s IR signature.
In terms of visual signature, Dassault Rafale is 15,3 m long, 5,34 m high with 10,8 m wing span. Typhoon is 15,96 m long, 5,28 m high with 10,95 m wing span. Overall Typhoon has slightly larger visual signature from top and side, while frontal signature should be similar.
When it comes to radar signature, whichever jet uses radar is going to be detected well beyond its own radar range and become a target. SPECTRA will give Rafale firing solution with 1* precision at 200 km, while Typhoon’s DASS achieves same precision at “more than” 100 km, and can be used to cue radar or IRST. Rafale will have RCS of 0,75-1,10 m2 with 6 missiles. Captor-M has range of 185 km vs 3 m2 target, while CAPTOR E has range of 216 km vs 3 m2 target. Thus Typhoon will detect Rafale at 131-144 km with CAPTOR-M or 153-168 km with CAPTOR-E. Engagement range will be 105-115 km with CAPTOR-M or 122-135 km with CAPTOR-E. However, since SPECTRA can reduce RCS by factor of 1,5 to 3, Rafale’s RCS is 0,25-0,75 m2. Consequently, Typhoon will detect Rafale at 99-131 km with CAPTOR-M or 116-153 km with CAPTOR-E; engagement range is 79-105 km with CAPTOR-M and 92-122 km with CAPTOR-E. Typhoon will have RCS of 0,9-1,2 m2 with 6 missiles. RBE-2 has range of 139 km vs 5 m2 target. RBE-2AA has range of 208 km vs 5 m2 target, or 278 km when coupled with SPECTRA. Consequently, Rafale will detect Typhoon at 90-97 km with RBE-2, or 135-195 km with RBE-2AA. Engagement ranges will be 72-78 km with RBE-2 or 108-156 km with RBE-2AA. Rafale’s OSF has range of 80 km vs subsonic head-on target at 20.000 ft. At 30.000 ft, range may be 80-90 km, which means that Rafale will be able to attack Typhoon from 60-70 km. Typhoon’s PIRATE has 90 km range vs subsonic head-on target at unknown altitude, giving it 60-70 km engagement range. That being said, ability of both to attack the opponent will be limited by missile effective range (15-100 km for Meteor, 9-36 km for AIM-120D, 4-16 km for MICA).
In terms of IR signature, primary factors are size, speed and engine emissions. Rafale has two M88 engines producing a total of 9.953 kgf on dry thrust and 15.077 kgf thrust in reheat, compared to 12.236 kgf dry thrust / 18.354 kgf afterburner for Typhoon. M88 also has secondary cooling channel and outer nozzle which hides hottest part of exhaust plume from the view from some angles. EJ200 has no secondary cooling channel or outer nozzle; however, its higher bypass ratio and slightly lower turbine inlet temperature will reduce the difference. Both aircraft are capable of supercruise: Rafale achieves Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles, compared to Mach 1,5 for Typhoon. Consequently, Typhoon does not have to use as high percentage of dry thrust for equivalent cruise speed, thus reducing difference in IR signature. This advantage is reduced by the fact that Typhoon will have 3% larger shock cone profile when supersonic. Rafale also received Hot Spot treatment, further reducing its IR signature.
Rafale M can cruise at Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles. Assuming that 30% of the onboard fuel (1.425 kg) is used for supercruise, Rafale will be able to cruise for 11 minutes (657 seconds). At 35.000 ft, this will allow it to cover 271,7 km (146,7 nm). Maximum combat radius on internal fuel is 925 km, or 1.850 km with 8 MICA and 3×2.200 l tanks. Flight range with external fuel tanks is 3.700 km.
Typhoon can cruise at Mach 1,5 with 6 missiles. Again assuming that 30% of the onboard fuel (1.482 kg) is used for supercruise, Typhoon will be able to cruise for 9,8 minutes (588 seconds). At 35.000 ft, this will allow it to cover 260,5 km (140,7 nm). Maximum combat radius on internal fuel is 1.100 km. Flight range with external fuel tanks is 3.700 km.
(Note: actual cruise endurance can be estimated to be thrice the numbers given here. This speculation is confirmed by F-22 managing 20 minute supercruise. That endurance however likely utilizes far greater percentage of internal fuel than what was assumed in this calculation.).
Dassault Rafale has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s and sustained turn rate of 24 deg/s. Eurofighter Typhoon has 30 deg/s instantaneous turn rate and sustained turn rate of 23 deg/s. Rafale can be relatively aerodynamically clean with 2 wingtip and 2 conformal missiles, compared to Typhoon’s 4 conformal missiles. However, this low-drag payload is more flexible for Rafale, as Typhoon cannot carry IR missiles on its conformal stations. Climb rate is 305 m/s for Rafale and 315 m/s for Typhoon, showing that latter has slightly better ability to regain energy. Rafale has less interference drag than Typhoon due to wing-body blending.
Rafale close coupled canards energize wing, improving control surface effectiveness and wing response to control surfaces. This leads to improved pitch and roll onset rates, especially at high angles of attack. Consequently, Rafale has superior transient performance when compared to baseline Typhoon variant; it can be flown in “bang-bang” manner as opposed to rolling pulls experienced by most other aircraft, including Typhoon. Rafale’s combination of close-coupled canards and LERX also leads to significant improvement in maximum lift and lift-drag ratio. Typhoon improvement package, consisting of 70* swept LERX (identical sweep to those on F-22 and Rafale), adds significant lift capability and may also improve transient performance, allowing it to match Rafale at least in some aspects. Rafale’s 48* wing sweep gives it better lift/drag ratio compared to Typhoon’s 52* sweep, albeit higher sweep means that Typhoon drags less in cruise flight.
(Note that the best way to escape either missile or gun shot is instantaneous turn in order to put the attacker at 3/9 o’clock followed by acceleration, and if necessary another turn. Sustained turns do not have much place in dogfight. In a multi-ship dogfight, no turn should be followed for more than 90 degrees).
During subsonic cruise, canard is unloaded for both close coupled and long arm configuration. This increases lift on trailing edge control surfaces required to keep the nose down, increasing aircraft’s lift/drag ratio. When supersonic, center of lift moves aft, increasing stability. While Rafale’s canards reduce center of pressure shift with increased speed, Typhoon has greater static negative stability margin. Consequently, supersonic maneuverability should be similar, with Typhoon having advantage at speeds above Mach 1,6 due to variable inlets and higher wing sweep.
In terms of post-stall maneuverability, Rafale can achieve 100-110* angle of attack, while Typhoon is limited to 70* angle of attack maximum in standard configuration. Addition of LERX allows it to achieve 100* angle of attack and thus match Rafale. Typical operational angle of attack limit is 32* for Rafale and 35* for Typhoon. However, Rafale’s close-coupled canard should allow it better spin recovery capability compared to either basic or upgraded Typhoon variant, with aircraft being basically spin-proof. Reliance on just LERX will also likely lead to lesser effectiveness of outboard control surfaces in Typhoon when compared to Rafale’s performance, reducing roll authority at high angles of attack. In both aircraft, passing 30* degree AoA will result in thrust loss due to loss in air flow, as it will separate from intakes.
Rafale’s primary missile is MICA, a dual-role WVR/BVR missile which comes in IR and RF variants. It has 80 km maximum aerodynamic range and 50 g maneuvering capability at Mach 4. Additionally, it will be able to use Meteor as long-range BVR missile; it has 315 km range and 40 g maneuvering capability at Mach 4.
Typhoon has a wider selection of weapons. For beyond visual range combat, it can use AMRAAM and ASRAAM, as well as Meteor in future. For within visual range combat, it can use ASRAAM, Sidewinder and IRIS-T. AIM-120D is a RF BVR missile with 180 km maximum aerodynamic range. It has 40 g maneuvering capability at Mach 4. AIM-9X is an IR missile with 26-42 km maximum aerodynamic range and 50 g maneuvering capability at Mach 2,7, but Typhoon likely cannot use the latest variants. ASRAAM is an IR missile with 50 km maximum aerodynamic range and 50 g maneuvering capability at Mach 3. IRIS-T is a WVR IR missile with 25 km maximum aerodynamic range and 60 g maneuvering capability at Mach 3.
Overall, Typhoon has advantage in maximum missile range. However, its primary BVR missiles – AIM-120 and Meteor in the future – are active radar missiles. Consequently, even if Typhoon uses its IRST for passive attack, missile will give itself away with its own radar long before enemy MAWS notices it. Once it does so, its limited maneuverability and usage of easily jammed or decoyed RF seeker head means that any (modern) enemy fighters will easily avoid it. Typhoon does have IR BVRAAM option in ASRAAM, but it has shorter range than Rafale’s MICA IR; it compensates for range shortfall with superior maneuverability. IRIS-T gives it a dogfighting missile which is significantly superior to MICA in short-range engagements due to better maneuverability. Consequently, both aircraft have significant combat capabilities at both beyond and within visual range, with Typhoon having superior WVR missiles and Rafale having superior BVR missiles.
Rafale has a standard loadout of 6 missiles (2 MICA IR + 4 MICA RF) and 3 gun bursts, for a total of 1,47 onboard kills. Typhoon has a standard of 8 missiles (2 IR WVRAAM + 6 RF BVRAAM) and 5,4 gun bursts, for a total of 2,45 onboard kills. Heavy loadout for Rafale is 10 missiles; assuming 8 of these are MICA RF, total number of onboard kills is 1,79. Heavy loadout for Typhoon is 10 missiles; assuming 2 IR WVRAAM + 8 RF BVRAAM, total number of onboard kills is 2,61. It can be seen that Typhoon has significant advantage in number of onboard kills in both loadouts. Both aircraft also have options for both IR and RF BVRAAM, though IR BVRAAM are of different capabilities.
Numbers in the air
Rafale may allow up to 81 hours per month in the air, compared to 72 hours for Typhoon. Expenditure will be 1.336.500 USD per month for Rafale and 1.296.000 USD per month for Typhoon. Assuming equal expenditure, Rafale allows 78 hours per month in the air. As it can be seen, both aircraft allow adequate number of hours.
Since Rafale costs ~93 million USD unit flyaway, compared to 120 million USD for Typhoon, it has 1,29:1 advantage in number of aircraft, and 1,45:1 advantage in total number of sorties. This difference about equalizes number of onboard kills carried by the fleet.
Response to attacks
Both aircraft are likely capable of taking off the roads, but this capability will be restricted by their large wing spans (10,8 and 10,92 m, respectively). Another disadvantage are increased maintenance requirments brought on by twin-engined design. Consequently, neither aircraft can be effectively operated from road bases, which may be a lethal disadvantage in the age of precision GPS-guided munitions.
Engagement kill chain performance
Kill chain consists of following steps:
- detection capability
- identification capability
- cruise speed
- maximum speed / mach on entry
- altitude on entry
- lock on / firing solution range
- missile seeker diversity
- endgame countermeasures (inbuilt, towed, disposable; jammers, decoys, chaff, flares)
- defeat the missile / disengage
- airframe agility
- sensors coverage
- mach on egress / fuel reserves on afterburner
- BVR missile seeker diversity
- BVR missile agility
- BVR missile warhead lethality
- WVR missile agility
- WVR missile warhead lethality
- gun lethality
As shown before, Typhoon will detect Rafale at 99-168 km with radar, while Rafale will detect Typhoon at 90-195 km with radar. However, both aircraft have capable radar warners capable of detecting, and in Rafale’s case targeting, enemy radars; consequently, neither is likely to use radar. If radar is not used, Rafale will have smaller IR signature due to superior aerodynamics, smaller size and IR signature reduction measures. This however is compensated for by Typhoon having superior IRST, which means that, when using IRST, both aircraft will likely detect each other at approximately same distance. In clear weather, Rafale may have a minor advantage in identification capability due to OSF having a video camera in addition to IRST sensor.
(Even assuming that target is a flat plate and that entirety of the signal reaches it, radar will get back 1/16th of the signal – at best. RCS comparison shows automobile to have an RCS of 100 m2 (likely from the side; from the front, 25-50 m2 value can be expected), whereas Rafale and Typhoon have RCS of ~1 m2 when armed. Consequently, enemy radar receives less than 1/400th of the signal that was sent out.)
Note that radar-based NCTR is also very unreliable (30% identification reliability at best) and can be disabled by jamming or by target maneuvering. Because of this, 82% of the enemy aircraft engaged during Desert Storm had to be identified with help of AWACS, which will not be avaliable against a competent opponents as comlinks will be jammed, and AWACS aircraft will not survive for long in a proper war; remaining 18% were done by NCTR or IFF (and IFF itself will not be useful against a competent opponent). Consequently, IRST is a must for proper BVR engagement even when all other disadvantages of radar (loss of surprise, easily jammed) are ignored.
Rafale has a cruise speed of Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles, while Typhoon has a cruise speed of Mach 1,5 with same load. Top speed for both is Mach 2,0, limited by air intake design. There is also a difference in service ceiling – 59.055 ft for Rafale and 64.993 ft for Typhoon; while Rafale can achieve Mach 2,0 at 50.000 ft, Typhoon can do the same at 55.000 ft. Higher cruise speed and acceleration will also allow Typhoon to more quickly reach its top speed, and if both aircraft are at same altitude, Typhoon will be better able to regain energy as well as having excess power for maneuvers. Typhoon’s ability to engage at higher speeds and altitudes will give it superiority in missile range over Rafale when using same missile types (e.g. Meteor). This advantage will be at least somewhat negated when using IR BVRAAM due to Mica’s longer range when compared to ASRAAM.
As shown before, both aircraft will be able to engage each other at beyond visual range by using either radar or IRST. Radar performance against each other is fairly similar, and so should be IRST performance. Since radar-guided BVRAAM are easy to jam, Rafale’s usage of MICA IR gives it engagement advantage over ASRAAM/AIM-9XIII equipped Typhoon.
Both Rafale and Typhoon have a selection of RF and IR BVR missiles. However, while ASRAAM has maximum engagement range of 50 km, Rafale’s MICA IR has range of 80 km, giving Rafale range advantage when using IR missiles. This advantage however is reduced by Typhoon’s kinematic advantage in terms of cruise speed and operating altitude. With RF missiles, Typhoon currently has (slight) advantage of using AIM-120C-5 with maximum range of 105 km, compared to MICAs 80 km range; price of this is AIM-120s inferior maneuverability. This will be equalized once both aircraft get 315 km range MBDA Meteor missile. This however assumes equal cruise speed. However, Rafale has cruise speed of Mach 1,4 with air-to-air load, compared to Typhoon’s Mach 1,5. At 40.000 ft (most likely altitude for these cruise speeds), Mach 0,1 difference equalizes 57,3 kts difference. As a rule, missile range from the rear is 1/4 of stated missile range, 100 knot speed advantage reduces missile range 5 to 25%, and effective range is 1/5 of aerodynamic range. Consequently, Rafale with MICA will have effective engagement range of 3,4-16 km against Typhoon, while Typhoon with ASRAAM will have effective engagement range of 2,9-10 km against Rafale. When using Meteor, Rafale will achieve 21-24 km range against Typhoon in rear-quarter attacks, while Typhoon will achieve 26-29 km range against Rafale in rear-quarter attacks.
Defeat the missile / disengage
Once warned of a missile launch, first reaction is to properly position the aircraft for evasion. At beyond visual range, it is oftentimes enough to turn the aircraft away from the missile. At shorter ranges (near-visual and visual range), pilot has to quickly position the missile to the aircraft’s 3 or 9 o’clock and then turn into the missile once close enough. Both of these require high instantaneous turn capability, as well as acceleration / climb to recover lost energy. Rafale has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s, sustained turn rate of 24 deg/s, maximum climb rate of 305 m/s and roll rate of 290 deg/s. Typhoon has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s, sustained turn rate of 23 deg/s, maximum climb rate of 315 m/s and roll rate of 250 deg/s. However, Rafale’s superior transient performance will give it better ability to evade missiles despite similar turn and acceleration rates.
Rafale and Typhoon both have 360* coverage with RWR and MAWS, and frontal-sector-only coverage with radar and IRST. Rafale has 120* angular coverage with RBE-2 and 140* angular coverage with RBE-2AA. Typhoon has 140* angular coverage with CAPTOR-M and 200* angular coverage with CAPTOR-E, giving it superiority when engaging enemies with radar. In particular, CAPTOR-Es extreme field of view will allow Typhoon to maintain target track while engaging in defensive maneuvers, thus reducing enemy’s effective missile range. Unlike RBE-2AA however, CAPTOR-E is not yet in service, which means that both aircraft have equal radar coverage at time of writing of this article, with Rafale having advantage in engagement range. Rafale will also be able to use SPECTRA to keep track of Typhoon during engagement, as long as Typhoon is using its radar.
Another issue is of fuel reserves for maneuvering. Assuming that both aircraft have 40% of the fuel avaliable for maneuvers, Rafale has enough fuel for 4,54 minutes of maximum afterburner while Typhoon has enough fuel for 3,89 minutes of maximum afterburner. However, using a number of maneuvers that can be done for a certain amount of fuel is superior indicator of endurance as higher-performance aircraft can afford to throttle down and extend endurance; this may not have much impact in this case due to aircrafts’ similar performance. Comparison will assume 360* corner-speed sustained turn followed by an equivalent of 10.000 m climb at maximum (initial) climb speed. Rafale will use 15 seconds for a turn, 32,79 seconds for a climb and 0,62 seconds for equivalent of a 180* roll at maximum rate, for a total of 48,41 seconds of maximum afterburner and 5,63 maneuvers. Typhoon will use 15,65 seconds for a turn, 31,75 seconds for a climb and 0,72 seconds for equivalent of a 180* roll at maximum rate, for a total of 48,12 seconds of maximum afterburner and 4,85 maneuvers. As it can be seen, Rafale has higher combat endurance. (Note here that this is based on sea-level figures; at 30.000 ft, actual thrust and fuel consumption will be closer to 1/3rd of those used, which will extend endurance. However, relative figures should stay similar, or slightly change in Typhoon’s favor).
In terms of countermeasures, Rafale has onboard AESA jammers, chaff and flares; SPECTRA is also capable of reducing aircraft’s RCS through active cancellation, though this is likely only an option against older-type radars. It does make it immune to home-on-jam mode of modern missiles. Typhoon has chaff and flares; jammers are located in wing tip pods which also contain towed decoys, and are not directional; this reduces their effectiveness compared to SPECTRA’s directional jamming, but presence of a towed decoy may improve effectiveness against missiles with home-on-jam mode. Typhoon’s IRIS-T may be capable of destroying enemy missiles.
In terms of agility, AIM-120C-5 can pull 30 g at Mach 4 (and can hold it for 4,5 s at most), Meteor can pull 40 g at Mach 4, ASRAAM can pull 50 g at Mach 3 and MICA IR can pull 50 g at Mach 4. This means that maximum turn rate is 13,91 deg/s for AIM-120C-5, 18,54 deg/s for Meteor, 30,9 deg/s for ASRAAM and 23,2 deg/s for MICA IR. Comparing this to respective aircraft turn rates (30 deg/s instantaneous for both), it can be seen that both aircraft have a good chance of evading any of the missiles listed.
AIM-120C has warhead weight of 20 kg, compared to 12 kg for MICA and 10 kg for ASRAAM. Consequently, lack of agility is somewhat compensated for by larger warhead weight; still, even assuming a perfectly cylindrical propagation pattern, AIM-120C has 1,4 times as large lethal radius as ASRAAM while latter has 2,22 times as high turn rate.
When it comes to WVR missiles, Rafale carries MICA IR as well while Typhoon carries either ASRAAM or IRIS-T. As calculated before, MICA IR has turn rate of 23,2 deg/s while ASRAAM has turn rate of 30,9 deg/s. IRIS-T can pull 60 g at Mach 3, for 37,07 deg/s ITR, which is significantly superior to either of other two missiles, and actually superior to instantaneous turn rates of either Typhoon or Rafale. MICA has 12 kg warhead, compared to 10 kg for ASRAAM and 11,4 kg for IRIS-T. Overall, Typhoon has significantly superior WVR missiles and more maneuverable IR BVRAAM, while Rafale has advantage in engagement range and warhead lethality when using IR BVRAAM.
In terms of gun lethality, both aircraft are equipped with revolver guns. Rafale uses GIAT-30 while Typhoon uses BK-27. GIAT-30 fires 275 g projectile with 17,5% HEI content (~48 g) at 1.025 m/s muzzle velocity, giving muzzle energy of 144,5 kJ. Projectile has crossectional density of 38,9 g/cm2. BK-27 fires 260 g projectile with 15% HEI content (39 g) at 1.100 m/s muzzle velocity, giving muzzle energy of 157,3 kJ. Projectile has crossectional density of 45,4 g/cm2. GIAT 30 has advantage in rate of fire (2.500 vs 1.700 rpm), allowing it to fire 19 projectiles in one burst, compared to 13 for BK-27. This means that GIAT 30 has per-burst throw weight of 5,23 kg with 0,91 kg of HEI and burst energy of 2,75 MJ, while BK-27 has throw weight of 3,38 kg with 0,51 kg of HEI and burst energy of 2,04 MJ. Overall, higher rate of fire, throw weight / muzzle energy and HEI content gives lethality advantage to GIAT 30, but BK-27 has advantage in effective range due to higher muzzle velocity and denser projectiles.
Rafale and Typhoon can both use radar, IRST or external pod for finding ground targets. Rafale has Thales Damocles targeting pod and Thales AREOS reconnaissance pod, while Typhoon has Damocles and Litening III targeting pods but no reconnaissance pod. AREOS Reco NG allows Rafale to capture digital imaginery during day and night (IR) and from all altitudes, and feed it to offboard systems. It offers identification range of several tens of kilometers. Both Damocles and Litening offer high resolution IR imaginery and laser designation, and can overall be considered comparable.
Rafale with external air-to-ground weapons has combat radius of 530-630 km on air-to-ground mission (530 km lo-lo-lo, 630 km lo-hi-lo). Rafale achieves 1.090 km combat radius in low-level penetration w/ 12×250 kg bombs, 4 MICA, 3×380 US gal tanks.
Typhoon has combat radius of 601 km in ground attack mission with lo-lo-lo profile, and 1.389 km with hi-lo-hi profile, using external fuel tanks.
Rafale has major advantage in that it can carry 9.500 kg of external payload, compared to Typhoon’s 7.500 kg. Furthermore, ten out of its 14 hardpoints can hold air-to-ground weapons, while only six of Typhoon’s 13 hardpoints are air-to-ground capable (with a maximum of eight weapons).
Both aircraft have a selection of laser-guided, GPS-guided bombs as well as cruise missiles. Typhoon and Rafale both use Paveway laser guidance kits, while Rafale also has AASM kit which includes rocket boosters for extending range of bombs, and short-ranged laser-guided AS-30L air-to-ground missile.
Both aircraft also use Storm Shadow and Apache cruise missiles. Apache is anti-runway cruise missile with submunitions payload, while Storm Shadow is based on Apache but uses BROACH warhead for taking out hardened targets. Typhoon also uses Taurus cruise missile, which duplicates Storm Shadow’s anti-bunker capability but has longer range (500 vs 400 km) and larger warhead (500 vs 450 kg). Unlike Storm Shadow, Taurus can also be used against ships.
In maritime attack, Rafale has highly lethal Exocet missile, while Typhoon uses US-made Harpoon and Penguin littoral anti-ship missile. Compared to Exocet and Harpoon, Penguin is shorter ranged at 55 km but harder to decoy due to using IR seeker instead of radar seeker head. Rafale however is better suited for high-speed low-altitude flight due to its close-coupled canards.
Rafale is also capable of using ASMP nuclear missile with 60-500 km range (depending on version, target and launch/engagement profile) and 150/300 kt warhead. Typhoon has ALARM anti-radiation missile and Brimstone missile for taking out hardened targets, as well as anti-armor BL-755 cluster bombs, BK90 gliding cluster bombs.
Both aircraft have good survivability (relatively speaking, for thin-skinned aircraft) due to twin-engined configuration and usage of overlapping control surfaces (canards).
Rafale’s SPECTRA does offer it survivability advantage against SAMs, but lacks towed decoy. This can be compensated for by using disposable jammers, but Rafale may not use them at present.
Performance in specific missions
In deep strike, neither aircraft has a major advantage due to similar combat radius and weapons, though Typhoon may have some advantage.
In close air support, main requirement is ability to fly and maneuver low and slow in order to engage targets with gun. In this, Rafale has a major advantage due to its close-coupled canard configuration as well as usage of more destructive 30 mm gun. Typhoon partly compensates for thi shortcoming with its superior selection of low-damage guided weapons, but these are still more expensive, less precise and more destructive than old-fashioned gunfire. Both aircraft are however highly vulnerable to small arms fire, meaning that they are unlikely to be used in this role.
In SEAD, Rafale has advantage of superior electronic warfare suite, but it also lacks towed decoy and dedicated anti-radiation missile. As standoff attacks may not be effective due to SAM mobility (as SA-6 needs 5 minutes to pack up and leave, Storm Shadow cruise missile can be employed from at most 80 km for assured effectiveness (1.000 kph speed), despite having nominal range of 560 km), both aircraft will need to utilize low-altitude attacks. In this area, Rafale’s close-coupled canards give it advantage ov reduced gust sensitivity and thus increased maximum speed (though it may still be limited by weapons carried). Radar horizon at altitude of 500 m is located at distance of 65 km. Rafale at low altitude will cover 65 km in 2,8 minutes at speed of 750 knots (4 minutes at 529 knots with heavy air-to-ground load); Typhoon may have similar performance.
Ground survivability includes possibility of camouflage and ability to operate from road bases. Latter includes STOL capability, wingspan limits, fuel consumption and ease of maintenance considerations. Wingspan should not be greater than 8,74 meters.
Rafale can take off in 590 meters (rolling takeoff) and land in 490 meters. Wingspan is 10,8 meters. Fuel consumption is 1.330 kg/h (?) kg/h cruise, 7.808 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 25.126 kg/h afterburning.
Typhoon can take off in 500 meters, which is likely brakes-on takeoff, and land in 700 meters. Wingspan is 10,95 meters. Fuel consumption is 1.492 (?) kg/h cruise, 9.072 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 30.456 kg/h afterburning.
As it can be seen, there is slight difference in aircraft on-ground survivability in Rafale’s favor. Rafale also requires far smaller maintenance support and far less fuel for operations, leading to reduced logistical footprint.
In air-to-air combat, Rafale is a superior dogfighter while Typhoon is superior at beyond visual range interception. Typhoon’s superiority at BVR combat is somewhat negated by its lack of MICA-class IR BVRAAM.
Rafale is also superior air-to-ground platform, but both aircraft have superiority in certain weapons categories over each other, so either could be a better choice, depending on situation. Rafale however is a better choice for the most important air-to-ground mission – close air support, though it doesn’t come anywhere close to purpose-built aircraft such as A-10.