Dassault Rafale vs F-22


While it is often claimed otherwise, Rafale is and always was an air superiority fighter in its basic design. In fact, three out of its original five design requirements were for air superiority, remaining two being range in attack missions and weapons load (one of air-to-air requirements was destruction of low-flying helicopters). Both aircraft are designed for performance at subsonic and supersonic speeds, but use different approaches to achieve their end goals.

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. F-22 can fly one hour every two days. Direct operating cost per hour of flight is 45.000 USD.

Pilots have to fly at least 30 hours per month, preferably 45 hours. Rafale allows up to 81 hour per month in the air (likely somewhat less), while F-22 allows 15 hours per month. However, in such situation direct operating costs per hour of flight will be 1.336.500 USD per month for Rafale and 675.000 USD per month for F-22. For the same price, Rafale will fly 41 hour per month, which is still significantly above the minimum requirement.

Situational awareness

Rafale’s primary air-to-air sensor is OSF optical sensor suite on top of the nose. It consists of IRST sensor and video camera. IR sensor has 80/130 km detection range against subsonic fighter-sized targets and 40 km identification range. Video camera allows 45-50 km identification range. In addition, it has RBE-2 radar, two fisheye IR MAWS sensors and 4 RWR sensors. MAWS and RWR sensors provide spherical coverage, and can be used to generate firing solution. Radar can be cued by SPECTRA to increase detection range. It has framed canopy providing 360* horizontal and 198* 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.

F-22 has no IRST sensor, so its primary sensor is AN/APG-77 AESA radar. It also has passive IR + UV MAWS system and RWR sensors capable of generating weapons track. Radar can also be cued by other sensors to increase detection range. Its canopy allows 345* horizontal and 190,5* vertical visibility, with 15* over the nose, -4,5* over the tail and a maximum of 55* over the sides.

Rafale has major advantage in having an onboard IRST. It also has 360* cockpit visibility, while F-22 has advantage of having a frameless canopy. Overall advantage in situational awareness goes to Rafale.


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. F-22 is 18,9 m long, 5,08 m high with 13,56 m wing span. This clearly shows that the F-22 is a far larger aircraft. Unlike F-35, F-22s body is not too large for its size.

When it comes to radar signature, whichever jet uses radar is going to be detected well beyond its own radar range; SPECTRA will give Rafale firing solution with 1* precision at 200 km. F-22s RWRs have a detection range of 463 km with 2* precision, enough to cue radar; at 200 km they may achieve 1* precision or better. Rafale will have RCS of 0,75-1,10 m2 with 6 missiles, while AN/APG-77 has 193 km range vs 1 m2 target. Thus F-22 will detect Rafale at 180-198 km. Tracking (attack) range will be 144-158 km without jamming, or 27-30 km with jamming. However, since SPECTRA can reduce RCS by factor of 1,5 to 3, Rafale’s RCS is 0,25-0,75 m2. Therefore, F-22 will detect Rafale at 136-180 km with 109-144 km tracking range; in presence of jamming, tracking range will be 20-27 km. F-22 has frontal RCS of 0,00018 m2, while Rafale’s RBE-2 PESA has 139 km range vs 5 m2 target. RBE-2 AESA (which entered service in 2012) has 208 km range vs 5 m2 target, or 278 km when cued by SPECTRA. Detection range will be 11 km for RBE-2 PESA and 16 km for RBE-2 AESA, with 22 km possible if RBE-2 AESA is cued by SPECTRA. This will give attack ranges of 9 km, 13 km or 18 km. Rafale’s OSF has range of 80 km vs subsonic head-on target at 20.000 ft. At 30.000 ft, range may be 85-90 km, which means that Rafale will be able to attack the F-22 from 68-72 km. 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 21.319/33.566 kgf for the F-22. Rafale M supercruises at Mach 1,4 at full dry thrust with 6 missiles, compared to F-22s Mach 1,75 with 8 missiles. Consequently, while F-22 produces far more thrust, difference is lower as it requires lesser portion of it to achieve same speed. Note that both size and temperature are important: while at low altitude atmospheric absorption and clutter mean that it is easier to notice hotspots, at high altitude lack of both atmosphere and clutter means that target size and sensor’s resolution play important role as well. Rafale also received Hot Spot treatment, further reducing IR signature.

Typically, Rafale will detect the F-22 first. If F-22 uses its radar, SPECTRA will detect F-22s radar signals. If F-22 does not use radar, Rafale will detect the F-22 at up to 100 km with IRST, whereas F-22s pilot will be able to visually pick up Rafale at maybe 5-6 km.

Cruise performance

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 with 6 missiles.

F-22 can cruise at Mach 1,75 with 8 missiles. Assuming that 30% of the onboard fuel (2.460 kg) is used for supercruise, it will be able to cruise for 7,4 minutes. At 35.000 ft, this will allow it to cover 299,5 km (123,9 nm). Maximum combat radius on internal fuel is 1.166 km with 8 missiles.

(Note: actual cruise endurance can be estimated to be three times as high the numbers given here due to differences of fuel consumption in actual flight at altitude versus static sea level test bench figures. This speculation is confirmed by F-22 managing 20 minute supercruise.).


Rafale has corner speed of 330 kts for 11 g instantaneous turn and 360 kts for 9 g sustained turn, giving it maximum turn rate values of 36,4 deg/s for instantaneous turn and 27,3 deg/s for sustained turn; sustained turn rate is achieved at 25.000 ft. F-22 has 35 deg/s instanteneous turn rate and 28 deg/s sustained turn rate, latter being at 20.000 ft. Since two degrees per second turn rate difference allows pilot to dominate adversary in dogfight, it can be seen that neither fighter has a decisive advantage in terms of turn performance. Rafale’s sustained turn rate is achieved at higher altitude than F-22s sustained turn rate, indicating that Rafale may have nearly identical if not superior sustained turn performance when compared to the F-22. Aerodynamically clean configuration is two (wingtip) missiles for Rafale and 8 internal missiles for F-22. However, since F-22s weapons bays add permanent weight and drag penalty, its clean configuration should be compared to Rafale’s low-drag configuration with four missiles.

Rafale’s climb rate of 305 m/s is inferior to F-22s 350 m/s, indicating inferior ability to reigan energy. Roll onset rate should be higher for Rafale due to smaller wing span and presence of close-coupled canards. Close-coupled delta-canard wing offers significantly higher maximum lift coefficient and positive trim lift on all control surfaces. During level flight or sustained turn conditions, canards provide download while trailling edge control surfaces provide upload; F-22 only has tail to provide upload. Modern unstable canard-deltas have canards providing no moment force during sustained turn conditions, thus reducing drag and improving lift-to-drag ratio; further, presence of canards has beneficial impact on wing L/D ratio during all turn conditions. When initiating a turn, canards will provide upload while trailling edge control surfaces and tail will provide download. This results in higher turn onset and thus improved transient performance, which is crucial for dogfight.

(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).

Both F-22 and Rafale have good post-stall maneuverability, being able to achieve angles of attack in excess of 100*, and recover from flat spin on aerodynamics alone. This is important since stall spin is the leading cause of maneuver-induced aircraft losses at 31%; post-stall maneuverability by itself has little use in combat. Rafale has 70* LERX and 48* wing compared to 70* LERX and 42* wing for F-22. Highly swept LERX creates strong vortices which propagate outward, preventing stall and significantly improving wing lift at high angles of attack as well as total wing lift. Rafale has advantage in that its canards add another set of vortices originating from canard tips and propagating further outward. These vortices energize outer portion of the wing, improving roll performance, especially at high angles of attack. Both aircraft also have large amounts of body lift.

During supersonic flight, aircraft will become more stable. Rafale’s close coupled canards will reduce pressure point shift with increased speed, allowing Rafale to remain aerodynamically unstable at higher speeds than a non-canard configuration would. Once aircraft does become stable, Rafale can transition trim authority to canards. This means that while F-22s horizontal tail will have to provide download and subtract from lift, thus worsening L/D ratio, Rafale will use canards to keep the nose up, which will lead to improved L/D ratio compared to canard-off configuration and thus increased maneuverability as well as improved cruise performance (cruise speed and efficiency). F-22 can however use its thrust vectoring to optimize angle of attack during cruise flight, and may be able to transition some of the control authority to TVC, reducing or eliminating the previously described disadvantage of a traditional tailed configuration.


F-22s primary missiles are AIM-120 for beyond visual range engagement and AIM-9X for within visual range engagement. 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 km maximum aerodynamic range and 50 g maneuvering capability at Mach 2,7.

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.

With standard loadout, F-22 has advantage in nominal missile range. However, for beyond visual range combat it relies on its radar, and radar-guided AIM-120. Consequently, F-22 will give itself away long before it can launch the missile, preventing surprise attacks. Once detected, AIM-120s limited maneuverability and usage of easily jammed or decoyed RF seeker head means that any enemy fighters will easily avoid it. AIM-9X Block III with 40 km range was supposed to provide limited BVR capability, but it was cancelled.

MICA IR on the other hand uses an IIR seeker. This has two advantages. First, it is passive, which means that enemy gets no warning of an incoming missile until (and unless) his MAWS notices the missile. Second, IIR seekers are very hard to jam and nearly impossible to decoy, forcing enemy fighter to rely on maneuvers to evade it. MICA is also more maneuverable than AIM-120. If used against F-22 however, F-22s cruise speed advantage over Rafale will reduce its already unimpressive range.

Rafale has standard loadout of 6 missiles (2 MICA IR + 4 MICA RF) and 3 gun bursts, for a total of 1,47 onboard kills. F-22 has a standard loadout of 8 missiles (2 AIM-9 + 6 AIM-120) and 4,8 gun bursts, for a total of 2,03 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 F-22 is 10 RF BVRAAM, 2 IR WVRAAM and 4,8 gun bursts, for a total of 2,35 onboard kills. As it can be seen, F-22 has significant advantage in number of onboard kills in both loadout options. Both aircraft also have options for both IR and RF BVRAAM, though IR BVRAAM are of different capabilities, and F-22 does not have sensors necessary to fully capitalize on IR BVRAAMs advantages.

Numbers in the air

Rafale may allow up to 80 hours per month in the air, compared to 15 hours for F-22. However, direct operating cost will be >1.320.000 USD for Rafale, compared to 675.000 USD for F-22. If identical expenditure is assumed, Rafale will allow 41 hour per month, a 2,7:1 advantage.

Since Rafale costs ~93 million USD unit flyaway, compared to 200 million USD at the very least for the F-22 (more precise figure is 273 million USD), it has 2,15:1 advantage. As Rafale can sustain 2,7 sorties per day, compared to one sortie every two days for the F-35, Rafale has a 11,5:1 numerical advantage over the F-22.

Response to attacks

While Rafale is capable of taking off roads (like most other fighters), this capability will be restricted by its overly large wing span. F-22 is even worse in that regard, having 13,56 m wing span compared to Rafale’s 10,8 m. F-22 is also far harder to maintain due to its stealth coating and thrust vectoring. Consequently, neither aircraft can be effectively operated from road bases, which may be a lethal disadvantage in the age of precision GPS-guided munitions and Google Earth.

Dassault Rafale supercruises at Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles, compared to F-22s cruise speed of Mach 1,75 with 8 missiles. Assuming that 40% of the fuel can be used for supercruise, Rafale can supercruise for 14,6 minutes at dry thrust, compared to 9,87 minutes for F-22 (going by static sea level figures). At 40.000 ft, this means that Rafale can cover 362 km compared to 306 km for F-22.

Engagement kill chain performance


Kill chain consists of following steps:

  • detect
    • detection capability
    • identification capability
  • engage
    • 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
  • destroy
    • BVR missile seeker diversity
    • BVR missile agility
    • BVR missile warhead lethality
    • WVR missile agility
    • WVR missile warhead lethality
    • gun lethality


As shown before, F-22 will detect Rafale at 135-200 km. Rafale will detect F-22 at 11-22 km with radar or at 80-100 km with IRST. However, radar is an active sensor, which means that it can be detected at far greater distance than its own detection range. 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 has RCS of ~1 m2 when armed. Consequently, F-22s radar receives less than 1/400th of the signal that was sent out. Even when aperture size difference between RWR and radar is accounted for, Rafale will detect F-22s radar signal at two times the distance (>350 km), possibly as much as several times farther (note that radar horizon at 10.000 m is at distance of 825 km). Since both fighters have extensive ESM capabilities, radar is not likely to be used.

When it comes to IR signature, Rafale’s smaller size and lesser thrust will give it advantage over F-22. Difference will be somewhat reduced by the fact that F-22 can match Rafale’s supercruise capability without using full dry thrust. Both aircraft have provisions for reduced IR signature, particularly in terms of hiding exhaust plume, but F-22 at the present has no IRST (and is unlikely to get it, even though provision exists). OSF may detect F-22 at 80-100 km (or more) from the front and 120-160 km from the rear; F-22 will have to get within visual distance (6-9 km) or use radar to detect Rafale; in either case, Rafale has “first look, first shot” advantage. Further, Rafale can use OSF’s visual camera to identify F-22 at ~45-50 km, or IRST with ~40 km identification range. F-22 pilot will have to come within cca 400-800 meters from target to establish positive VID. NCTR works at longer ranges, but is 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 anyway. Consequently, F-22 is an exclusively visual-range dogfighter and is as such at disadvantage against Rafale which has actually useful BVR capability.


Rafale has cruise speed of Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles, and top speed of Mach 2,0. F-22 has cruise speed of Mach 1,75 and top speed of Mach 2,0. In both cases top speed limit is caused by air intake design, leaving excess thrust for maneuvering even at maximum speed. Cruise speed advantage allows F-22 to more-or-less dictate terms of engagement, though its ability to do so is reduced by its endurance disadvantage (while F-22 can extend endurance by cruising at slower speed, its lower fuel fraction suggests inferior endurance. At Mach 1,5 and 40.000 ft, F-22 can cover 0,035 nautic miles per pound of fuel. 30% (5.400 lbs) of fuel allows it to cover 189 nm or 350 km, though it should be noted that this is based on actual fuel consumption; Rafale’s endurance in such scenario is likely significantly greater than what was calculated here, still leaving F-22 at endurance disadvantage). That being said, higher cruise speed and faster acceleration will allow F-22 to reach maximum speed more quickly than Rafale will be able to reach its own maximum speed. This is assuming that either fighter will actually have time to do so.

Rafale’s service ceilling of 59.055 ft is lower than F-22s 65.000 ft limit. This altitude advantage will give F-22 a measure of superiority in air-to-air combat, assuming that IFF problem is solved (for example, by the enemy using active radars). Combination of altitude and cruise speed / dash speed advantage will give F-22 advantage in effective missile range while reducing Rafale’s missile range. It will increase Rafale’s detection range v/s F-22, but will still enable F-22 first shot capability assuming that it can identify and target Rafale.

As shown before, Rafale will be able to attack the F-22 from distance of 70 km. F-22 may be able to attack Rafale from 20-158 km with radar, but doing so will allow Rafale to target it from 160-200 km with SPECTRA. Both aircraft can use their RWRs to cue other sensors (radar, and in Rafale’s case, IRST). F-22 may have disposable jammers, giving it advantage over Rafale, but there is no definite confirmation as far as I was able to determine. Rafale has major advantage in that it has IR BVRAAM, which gives it greater hit probability, as well as the ability to surprise the enemy when combined with IRST. Rafale can engage targets at their six o’clock through usage of onboard sensors, improving its dogfighting performance when compared to F-22.

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 36,4 deg/s and maximum climb rate of 305 m/s. F-22 has instantaneous turn rate of 35 deg/s, acceleration time from M 0,8 to M 1,2 of 55 s and maximum climb rate of 350 m/s. This means that Rafale will have minor advantage when evading missiles.

Rafale and F-22 both have 360* coverage with RWR and MAWS, and frontal-sector-only coverage with radar and, in Rafale’s case, IRST. Rafale’s RBE-2 has 120* field of regard, which is identical for F-22s AN/APG-77. RBE-2 AESA has 140* field of regard. Consequently, neither aircraft will be able to track another one with radar or IRST while engaging in defensive maneuvers. Either aircraft that uses radar allows itself to be tracked through opponent’s defensive systems.

There is also an issue of fuel reserves for maneuvering. Assuming that both aircraft have 40% of the fuel avaliable for maneuvers, Rafale will have enough fuel for 4,54 minutes of maximum afterburner while F-22 will have enough fuel for 3,23 minutes of maximum afterburner. However, maneuvering endurance is more important. 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 13,19 seconds for a turn and 32,79 seconds for climb, for a total of 45,98 seconds of maximum afterburner and 5,92 maneuvers. F-22 will use 12,86 seconds for turn and 28,57 seconds for climb, for a total of 41,43 seconds of maximum afterburner and 4,68 maneuvers. As it can be seen, Rafale has higher combat endurance despite somewhat lower energy performance. (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.).

In terms of countermeasures, Rafale has onboard 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. F-22 has chaff and flares; it could also theoretically carry disposable jammers but has no internal jammer installed. It can use its radar for jamming, but it only covers 120* forward cone and to do so it has to sacrifice frequency agility, making it vulnerable to anti-radiation missiles. That being said, F-22s low radar crossection makes usage of onboard jammer less beneficial than for most other aircraft, but also increases effectiveness of jamming when it is used.


F-22 has AIM-120 with maximum engagement range of 180 km. This is significantly superior to 80 km range of MICA RF. MBDA Meteor with 315 km range will enter service in 2019, giving Rafale range advantage. However, while Rafale has MICA IR with 80 km range for IR BVRAAM, F-22 has no IR beyond visual range missile. When combined with lack of IRST, this makes F-22 incapable of surprising the opponent, especially if offboard sensors are unavaliable.

In terms of agility, AIM-120D and Meteor can both pull 40 g at Mach 4 and MICA IR can pull 50 g at Mach 4. This means that maximum turn rate is 18,54 deg/s for AIM-120 and Meteor and 23,2 deg/s for MICA IR. Comparing this to respective aircraft turn rates (36,4 deg/s ITR for Rafale and 35 deg/s ITR for F-22), it can be seen that both aircraft have a good chance of evading any of the missiles listed (missile needs to at least match aircraft’s turn rate, and in some cases have twice as high turn rate, in order to hit).

AIM-120D has warhead weight of 23 kg, compared to 12 kg for MICA. Consequently, lack of agility is compensated for by larger warhead weight. Assuming perfectly cylindrical propagation pattern, AIM-120D has 1,4 times as large lethal radius as MICA while MICA has 25% better turn rate.

When it comes to WVR missiles, Rafale carries MICA while F-22 carries AIM-9X. AIM-9X has maximum engagement range of 26 km, while Rafale’s MICA IR has range of 80 km, giving Rafale significant range advantage when using IR missiles. MICA IR can pull 50 g at Mach 4, giving it ITR of 23,2 deg/s while AIM-9X can pull 50 g at Mach 2,7, giving it ITR of 34,4 deg/s. It can be seen that MICA is far less dangerous to F-22 than AIM-9X is to Rafale in visual-range combat. This performance disadvantage is only somewhat compensated for by the fact that F-22 will typically carry missiles internally, requiring launch bay doors to open before launching the missile.

In terms of gun lethality, Rafale uses GIAT 30 revolver cannon while F-22 uses M61A2 rotary gun. GIAT-30 fires 275 g projectile with 17,5% HEI content (~48 g) at 1.025 m/s muzzle velocity. M61A2 fires 102 g projectile with 10,3% HEI content (~11 g) at 1.050 m/s muzzle velocity. Further, GIAT-30 projectiles have crossectional density of 38,9 g/cm2 compared to 32,47 g/cm2 for M61A2, leading to slower loss of speed. Combination of these factors gives GIAT 30 significantly higher per-projectile effectiveness. Further, F-22 has to open up gun trap doors to use the gun, which adds 0,5 second delay. Even if gun doors are opened beforehand, GIAT 30 will fire 19 projectiles in first 0,5 seconds, compared to 37 projectiles for M61A2. This gives total throw weight of 5,23 kg for GIAT 30, with 0,91 kg of HEI. M61A2 has total throw weight of 3,77 kg with 0,39 kg of HEI. As it can be seen, GIAT 30 is significantly more lethal than M61A2.

Ground survivability

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 cruise, 7.808 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 25.126 kg/h afterburning.

F-22 can take off in 480 meters and land in 200 meters. Wingspan is 13,56 meters. Fuel consumption is 0,07 nautical miles per pound of fuel at Mach 0,8 and 30.000 ft (standard cruise profile), which translates into 5.890 lbs or 2.672 kg/h fuel consumption during cruise. Fuel consumption at maximum dry thrust is 19.936 kg/h and at afterburner 60.894 kg/h.

As it can be seen, there is significant 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.


While both aircraft have (oftentimes significant) advantages over each other in air-to-air combat, deciding factor will most likely be pilot’s skill. Overall, Rafale can be considered slightly superior to the F-22 even in “sterile” comparison. When it comes to things that matter the most in air war – pilot skill, field supportability, basing flexibility and on-ground survivability – Rafale is significantly superior to the F-22. In the air, Rafale will be unable to regularly surprise the F-22 due to its lack of cruise performance, while F-22 wil be unable to surprise Rafale due to its lack of IRST. However, F-22 will have significant kinematic advantage due to higher cruise speed and service ceilling. In dogfight, Rafale will have superior transient performance while F-22 will be superior at energy management.

Further reading






Categories: weapons

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25 replies

  1. So the conclusion means that in a purely theoric comparion of USAF and Armée de l’Air restricted to Rafale and Raptor, the 140 Rafale should win against the 187 Raptor as they are more survivable both in ground and in air and more often available wich mean more Rafale than Raptor in air at any given time?

  2. Hello Picard; we know that at langley, in 2006, typhoon’s captor was able to constanctly detect f22 at 40km range; we also know that raphale aesa detection range should be still inferior to old EF captor; give raphale new typhoon aesa with 80%improoved range and with its mica could seriously scare f22…Main weak point of 22 is that amraam is short legged and cannot host meteor, a missile that seems designed to be launched from a very stealth plataform like f22…AnywayI think that an ” how much asimmetric is an eurocanrds vs suhkoy fight”debate would be more interesting..and ” at which point of asimmetry an airforce should decide not to trhow his fighters in to fight” in your opinion ?
    High maintenance costs and work put f22 in an angle, like a mere silver bullet role : f22 is a plne for special operations, not for war; also for this reason a comparison beetwin raphale and f18 sounds more appropriate. Cheers.

    • “Main weak point of 22 is that amraam is short legged”

      Yeah, IIRC AIM-120D has received a booster phase which brings its range at ~180 kilometers (compared to some 200-300 km for Meteor), but it has a major lack of kinetic energy and consequently endgame maneuverability when compared to Meteor at any range it can reach (Meteor has 100 km range in straight line, as in under thrust).

      “High maintenance costs and work put f22 in an angle, like a mere silver bullet role : f22 is a plne for special operations, not for war; also for this reason a comparison beetwin raphale and f18 sounds more appropriate. Cheers.”

      Agreed. I will do that one someday as well, though I didn’t do it immediately as frankly, F-18Cs are fading away while F-18Es are bombers by design, not air superiority fighters. Regarding the F-22, it was originally designed for air combat behind the enemy lines, inside undegraded IADS. Hence the requirement for supercruise and all aspect stealth. It would be ideal for taking out enemy command posts, network nodes and other high value targets deep inside undegraded IADS as well as for air cover for aircraft performing deep strike missions, but not for generalized air superiority missions, for reasons already noted. It might also be useful for SEAD/DEAD, but limited number of sorties seriously limits its ability to cause significant damage against anything but highly centralized air defense networks. If there were a two seater F-22, it could perform well as a command fighter for groups of stealthy UCAVs performing SEAD/DEAD missions, but there is not.

  3. Btw proposed mssile ranges are not vs fighters: to get that figure you must cut by half the proposed ranges; i have read that french pilots are not very happy with mica range which is barely in a 40km radius vs a manouvring fighter; meteor no escape zone vs aa manouvring fighter is 150km+; if it is launched supersonic, (mach 1,6) much more likely in case of meteor then mica, it is supposed to reach a 190-200km no escape zone; AIM-120 D, (f22 is currently only fighter hosting the ltest evolution of amraam), has a range vs fighter in a 70-80km maximum

    • Actually, all maximum ranges avaliable are against head-on non-maneuvering fighter (I believe that assumption is also made of a total Mach 4 closing speed). Effective range head-on is half of the ranges noted, while range in the rear attacks is quarter of *that*. So AIM-120D has a range of 20-90 km at most, compared to maybe 50-200 km for Meteor (due to ramjet propulsion) and 10-40 km for MICA.

  4. Factoring in equal life cycle costs (say you had ~$100 billion USD and had to pick between the Rafale and the F-22), the Rafale would win by virtue of numbers.

    The F-22 does have some in theory, very impressive specs, but the problem is that it is cost prohibitive and it does not lend itself to pilots getting enough hours (it is actually terrible about this).

    • Precisely. I’d say that one-on-one Rafale has advantage at WVR and F-22 at BVR, but F-22 lacks reliable BVR ID capabilities, and more importantly it is just too damn expensive and hard to keep in the air.

  5. Interesting video of a dogfight, Rafale vs raptor.

    Some informations we can extract from that video:

    – Pilot skill and well understanding of its own aircraft’s capabilities are crucial.
    – Rafale keeps its energy very well (so, it will save fuel and in consequence, time available in combat before breaking).
    – Raptor waste a lot of energy (and fuel), using after burner and thrust vectoring at these speeds, angles of attack, at medium altitudes.
    – Rafale’s nose authority is very good at low speed, high angle.
    – Raptor’s pilot is not aware in air to air combat, or a young pilot.
    – Rafale pilot knows well its plane and is more experienced in air to air combat than the Raptor pilot.
    – With no doubt, Rafale can match a Raptor in dogfight below 20 000ft.
    – Rafale’s flight controls are very well balanced and efficient.
    – Today, dogfighting with these aircrafts (able to maintain 9G indefinitely in turns) is very demanding for the pilot (human limits are close…).
    – Every dogfight ends at an altitude below it has started.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with everything, but I’d also like to add that it (assuming it is the video I think it is, my internet connection right now is too slow) shows value of quick-fire weapons: Rafale got firing opportunities with both gun and missiles against F-22, but both of them (especially gun one) lasted for a short time.

      • Indeed, you’re right; i think that the Rafale’s pilot missed a canon firing oportunity by being too slow at adjusting his gun sight.
        But everithing goes so fast in dogfight…!

  6. Clearly the USA should give up on the F35, and buy, and build the Rafale under license. Or an improved Rafale, supposing it can be improved. But of course such a drastic change in mentality would assume that the real worry would be military against Russia or China, and not economic, against France. A century ago, the Americans learned precision engineering and chain construction when the French had them mass produce French 75mm guns. The nascent US Army Air Force also used French fighters.

    • Raphale is a very good project; a well balanced fighter; but look at typhoon engines and nradar, old mechanic one and new aesa, and you see that typhhoon engines and radar simply outclass raphale’s (and not only raphale’s ones) ones…For example typhoon pilots ahave an electronic key that are allowed to use just in a real war scenario: it increase dry thrust by 10% in step 1 and by 25% in step 2…Furthemore even is typhoon cannot fly as well as raphale in close terrain mode, its aerodinamic are superior in supersonic (STR G& at mach1,6)
      coming back to f22 it learned with typhoon ecounters thta using thrust vectoring is avery risky manouvre vs an high STR fighter like typhoon( Or Raphale)

      • Radar cannot really be used as Picard578 made clear… It’s all about Infrared. And it’s pretty obvious, anyway. Rafale is an omnirole fighter-bomber, and can be used for electronic warfare. In Libya, Rafale flew cover for bomb carrying Mirages in the initial attack against Qaddafi’s armor in the suburbs of Benghazi. At that point Libyan air defenses were fully functional. Typhoons could not target anything without other, older planes accompanying them.

        Typhoon is made by Airbus, a corporation based in Toulouse, France. The rumor has it that Airbus will never try again to out-Dassault Dassault.

        Picard578 did not indeed insist this time that F22 will thrust vector itself into dangerously low fuel very quickly (something like that would happen in Vietnam).

        • “Picard578 did not indeed insist this time that F22 will thrust vector itself into dangerously low fuel very quickly”

          From few comments I found, it seems that experienced F-22 pilots use thrust vectoring very sparingly, if at all, during maneuvering combat. But even so, Rafale with its superior aerodynamics and lower wing loading has the advantage.

      • From what I can tell, thrust vectoring is also very bad in that it causes a huge loss in energy, much like post stall type moves. You would have to be 100% sure that you could get a kill next move or you would be a sitting duck.

        Considering the penalty in cost and complexity, to say nothing of takeoff mass, I am thinking it is not worth it.

        • Correct. Thrust vectoring is only useful for aerodynamically underdeveloped aircraft, or aircraft that for whatever reason (such as optimization for a certain flight regime) cannot fully utilize their aerodynamic potential in maneuvering combat.

    • US military also adapted French World War I doctrine and mentality, which were disastrous at least, and still isn’t letting go of it even as France discarded it during World War II.

  7. Here is the situation awarness that can be found in a Rafale:

    I post that, just to point out what makes the all difference between modern jets with data fusion and good Man Machine Interface and older ones.
    ( without consedering other aspects as aerodynamic performances, thrust to weight ratio, fire and forget missiles, AESA radar, passive sensors and so on…)
    On the link below, you can find 14 slides explaining partially symbols meanings (in french!):


  1. Comparing modern Western fighters « Defense Issues

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