Dassault Rafale vs Saab Gripen

Introduction

Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen are both multirole fighter aircraft of canard-delta configuration produced in Europe. Rafale was designed to replace seven different aircraft previously in French service, while Gripen was designed for guerilla warfare against a superior enemy. This comparison will use Gripen C.

Air-to-air performance

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. Gripen can fly 2,2 hours per day with direct operating cost per hour of flight of 4.700 USD, and fuel consumption is 4.646 kg/h dry and 14.664 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 141.000 for Gripen. Assuming that maximum number of hours is flown by both aircraft (81 for Rafale and 66 for Gripen), cost will be 1.336.500 USD for Rafale and 310.200 USD for Gripen. If Rafale flies 66 hours per month, price will be 1.188.000 USD. Overall, Gripen is better due to lower price, as nothing stops an air force from operating two Gripens for each pilot and achieving 132 hours per month.

Situational awareness

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.

Gripen has no IRST or MAWS. It has PS-05/A radar with 147 km detection range, as well as radar warners. Radar warners can be used for missile approach warning but only against active-RF missiles, and do not offer accurate positioning. It has framed canopy providing 156* horizontal and 185* vertical visibility including 15* over the nose, -10* over the tail and 40* over the sides, with maximum 40* over the side visibility. PS-05/A has 120* angular coverage.

Overall, Rafale has significant advantage in situational awareness, especially during passive operation. It is also less vulnerable to IR missiles.

Stealth

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. Gripen is 14,1 m long, 4,5 m high with 8,4 m wing span. Overall Gripen is smaller than Rafale from all aspects, especially from the top.

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 Gripen’s AR-830 RWR has unknown performance. Rafale has 0,15 m2 frontal RCS, which can be reduced to 0,05 m2 with SPECTRA. With 6 missiles, RCS is 0,75-1,15 m2, but could be as low as 0,25 m2 if SPECTRA can compensate for the payload. Gripen has 0,5 m2, and with 6 missiles, RCS is 1,1-1,7 m2. Rafale’s RBE-2 AESA radar entered service in 2012; it has range of 208 km against 1-2 m2 target, or 278 km when assisted by SPECTRA. Field of regard is 140*. Gripen C uses mechanically scanned PS-05A radar with 80 km range against 1m2 target, but in 2015 an upgrade was unvelied which increases its range to 150% of the original, or 120 km against 1 m2 target; radar itself is still mechanically scanned. As a result, Rafale will detect Gripen at 179-239 km. Gripen will detect Rafale at 57-83 km when using original PS-05A radar, or 85-124 km when using upgraded radar. 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 Gripen from 50-60 km (due to Gripen’s smaller size). 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 97,6 kN on dry thrust and 147,8 kN thrust in reheat, compared to Gripen’s single engine producing 54 kN dry and 80,5 kN in reheat. M88 has secondary cooling channel and outer nozzle which hides hottest part of exhaust plume from the view from some angles. RM-12 has no such cooling channel or external nozzle. Both aircraft are capable of supercruise: Rafale achieves Mach 1,4 with 6 missiles, compared to Mach 1,15 for Gripen. Consequently, Rafale 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 Rafale will have 65% larger shock cone profile when supersonic. Rafale also received Hot Spot treatment, further reducing its IR signature.

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, or 1.850 km with 8 MICA and 3×2.200 l tanks. Flight range with external fuel tanks is 3.700 km.

Gripen C can cruise at Mach 1,15 with 6 missiles. Assuming that 30% of the onboard fuel (720 kg) is used for supercruise, Gripen will be able to cruise for 9,3 minutes (558 seconds). At 35.000 ft, this will allow it to cover 164,8 km (89 nm). Maximum combat radius on internal fuel is 800 km, or 1.550 km with external fuel. Flight range with external fuel tanks is 3.200 km.

(Note: actual supercruise 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.).

Maneuverability

Dassault Rafale has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s and sustained turn rate of 24 deg/s. Saab Gripen has 30 deg/s instantaneous turn rate and sustained turn rate of 20 deg/s. Rafale can be relatively aerodynamically clean with 2 wingtip and 2 conformal missiles, compared to Gripen’s 2 wingtip missiles. This low-drag payload is more flexible for Rafale, primarily due to larger number of stations. Climb rate is 305 m/s for Rafale and 254 m/s for Gripen, showing that Rafale has better ability to regain energy. Both aircraft have low interference drag due to wing-body blending.

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, which leads to improved transient performance. However, Rafale’s combination of close-coupled canards and LERX also leads to significant improvement in maximum lift and lift-drag ratio. This is compounded by the shape of Rafale’s air intakes, which redirects boundary layer towards LERX and towards aircraft’s underside. This has dual role of strenghtening LERX and canard root vortices as well as increasing pressure on the aircraft’s bottom, leading to improved lift as well as control at high angles of attack. Rafale’s 48* wing sweep gives it worse lift/drag ratio compared to Gripen’s 45* wing sweep.

(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. Both Rafale and Gripen have canards which reduce center of pressure shift with increased speed. Consequently, supersonic maneuverability should be similar, with advantage to Rafale due to greater static instability.

In terms of post-stall maneuverability, both aircraft can achieve 100-110* angle of attack, and Gripen can be “parked” at 70-80* AoA, which Rafale should be able to achieve as well. Typical operational angle of attack limit is 32* for Rafale and 26* for Gripen. Both aircraft have close-coupled canard configuration which makes the aircraft basically spin-proof. In both aircraft, passing 30* degree AoA will result in thrust loss due to loss in air flow, as it will separate from intakes.

Weapons

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.

Gripen has a wider selection of weapons. For beyond visual range combat, it can use AMRAAM and ASRAAM, as well as Meteor with the MS21 standard. For within visual range combat, it can use ASRAAM, Sidewinder, IRIS-T and A-Darter. 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 Gripen 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, Rafale has advantage in maximum missile range due to its higher cruise speed and ceilling. If neither aircraft uses Meteor, then advantage shifts to Gripen due to longer range of AMRAAM compared to MICA (180 vs 80 km). This advantage is negated by the fact that Gripen’s primary BVR missiles all use RF seeker, which means that they can be easily jammed. Meanwhile, ASRAAM is shorter than MICA (60 vs 80 km), and this difference is increased by Rafale’s kinematic advantage. It is somewhat compensated for by ASRAAMs superior maneuverability. Consequently, both aircraft have significant combat capabilities at both beyond and within visual range, with Gripen having superior WVR missiles and Rafale having superior IR BVR missiles. Gripen does have advantage in BVR area in that it has two-way datalink while Rafale only has one-way datalink to its missiles.

Rafale has a standard loadout of 6 missiles (2 MICA IR + 4 MICA RF) and 6,6 gun bursts, for a total of 2,59 onboard kills. Gripen has a standard of 6 missiles (2 IR WVRAAM + 4 RF BVRAAM) and 9,2 gun bursts, for a total of 3,47 onboard kills. Heavy loadout for Rafale is 10 missiles; assuming 8 of these are MICA RF, total number of onboard kills is 2,91. Gripen cannot carry more than 6 missiles. It can be seen that Rafale has disadvantage in total number of kills. Both aircraft also have options for both IR and RF BVRAAM, though IR BVRAAM are of different capabilities. If 1-second gun bursts are assumed, Rafale can fire 3 and Gripen 4,44 gun bursts. This would give Rafale a total of 1,67/1,99 onboard kills and Gripen a total of 2,00 onboard kills. Overall, Gripen has advantage in number of onboard kills.

Numbers in the air

Rafale may allow up to 81 hours per month in the air, compared to 65 hours for Gripen. Expenditure will be 1.336.500 USD per month for Rafale and 305.500 USD per month for Gripen. Assuming equal expenditure, Rafale allows 18 hours per month in the air. As it can be seen, both aircraft allow adequate number of hours, but only if one has the money – and in that case, it is possible to buy 2-4 Gripens for each pilot for the operating price of one Rafale, thus allowing far better training.

Since Rafale costs ~93 million USD unit flyaway, compared to 45 million USD for Gripen, latter has 2,1:1 advantage in number of aircraft, and 1,69:1 advantage in total number of sorties. However, as noted above, difference in operating price may allow Gripen advantage in total number of sorties as high as 4,4:1. This means that Gripen’s advantage in total fleet onboard kills is at least 2,26:1, and possibly as high as 5,89:1.

Response to attacks

Both aircraft are likely capable of taking off the roads. However, Gripen is significantly smaller (8,4 vs 10,8 m wing span) and is designed specifically for operating off the roads. Rafale’s higher maintenance and logistics requirements make successful operation from road bases far less likely. Combat turnaround time for air-to-air mission is 30 minutes for Rafale and 10 minutes for Gripen. In air-to-ground mission, it is 90 minutes for Rafale and 20 minutes for Gripen. Overall, Gripen has significant advantage in both response to attacks and on-ground survivability.

Engagement kill chain performance

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-05072010-1.html

 

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

Detect

In this area, Rafale may or may not have the advantage. As noted before, by using radar Rafale will detect Gripen at 179-239 km whereas Gripen will detect Rafale at 57-83 or 85-124 km. Since both aircraft have RWR/ESM capable of detecting opponent’s radar or other EM emissions, radar will likely not be used. However, Gripen C does not have IRST, albeit improved Gripen C and Gripen NG will likely have Skyward G IRST, which can be assumed to be superior to Rafale’s OSF. As a result, Rafale will identify and engage basic Gripen C long before Gripen’s pilot gets a visual detection, but Gripen E can be assumed to detect and identify the Rafale first. In clear weather, Rafale may have a minor advantage in identification capability due to OSF having a video camera in addition to IRST sensor. It should be noted 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.

(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.)

Engage

Rafale has top dash speed of Mach 2,0, identical to Gripen, as it is limited by air intake design. However, Rafale’s service ceilling is 59.055 ft, compared to 52.500 ft for Gripen C. Rafale also has cruise speed of Mach 1,4 which is faster than Gripen’s cruise speed of Mach 1,15. Higher cruise speed and acceleration will also allow Rafale to more quickly reach its top speed, and if both aircraft are at same altitude, Rafale will be better able to regain energy as well as having excess power for maneuvers. Rafale’s ability to engage at higher speeds and altitudes will give it superiority in missile range over Gripen when using same missile types (e.g. Meteor). This advantage will be increased 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. Rafale has significant advantage in radar detection range, but the situation should be reversed with IRST due to Gripen’s somewhat lower IR signature. Since radar-guided BVRAAM are easy to jam, Rafale’s usage of MICA IR gives it engagement advantage over ASRAAM equipped Gripen.

Both Rafale and Gripen 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 is only increased by Rafale’s kinematic advantage in terms of cruise speed and operating altitude. With conventional RF missiles, basic Gripen C 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. Gripen C brought up to MS-21 standard can deploy 200-315 km range Meteor; while Rafale can also use it and has range advantage due to higher cruise speed, Gripen has advantage of a two-way datalink. Rafale has cruise speed of Mach 1,4 with air-to-air load, compared to Gripen’s Mach 1,15. At 40.000 ft (most likely altitude for these cruise speeds), Mach 0,25 difference equalizes 143,25 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 6-7 km against Gripen, while Gripen with ASRAAM will have effective engagement range of 1,6-2,3 km against Rafale. When using Meteor, Rafale will achieve 24-28 km range against Gripen in rear-quarter attacks, while Gripen will achieve 10-15 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. Gripen has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s, sustained turn rate of 20 deg/s, maximum climb rate of 254 m/s and roll rate of 250 deg/s.

Rafale and Gripen both have 360* coverage with RWR, and frontal-sector-only coverage with radar. Unlike Rafale, Gripen C has neither IRST or MAWS, placing it at serious risk against IR missiles. Rafale has 120* angular coverage with RBE-2 and 140* angular coverage with RBE-2AA. Gripen has 60* (?) angular coverage with PS-05/A radar, albeit Gripen E with Raven AESA has 200* angular coverage as well as UV MAWS (which will still place it at disadvantage against Rafale as UV MAWS cannot track missiles that do not have active exhaust plume, such as BVR missiles in the coasting phase). Raven’s extreme field of view will allow Gripen E to maintain target track while engaging in defensive maneuvers, thus reducing enemy’s effective missile range; this does not apply to baseline Gripen C which is the focus of this comparison. Unlike RBE-2AA however, Raven (as with Gripen E) is not yet in service, which means that Rafale currently has advantage in both coverage and engagement range. Rafale will also be able to use SPECTRA to keep track of Gripen during the engagement, as long as Gripen 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 Gripen has enough fuel for 3,93 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. Gripen will use 18 seconds for a turn, 39,37 seconds for a climb and 0,72 seconds for equivalent of a 180* roll at maximum rate, for a total of 58,09 seconds of maximum afterburner and 4,06 maneuvers. If instantaneous turn is used, then both aircraft will utilize 12 seconds for an equivalent of 360* turn at maximum turn rate (actual turn length will depend on speed loss during instantaneous turn), leading to 45,41 seconds and 6 maneuvers for Rafale and 52,09 seconds and 4,53 maneuvers for Gripen. 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, and turn rates will also decrease).

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. Gripen has chaff and flares; jammers if used are completely disposable, which offers protection against RF missile’s home-on-jam mode. Some Gripen C variants (e.g. used by Hungary) also have advanced internal jammers, but these are most likely omnidirectional, thus reducing effectiveness.

Destroy

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 Gripen carries either ASRAAM, IRIS-T, Sidewinder or Darter. 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 Gripen or Rafale. Darter can pull 100 g at Mach 4 for 46,36 deg/s ITR. MICA has 12 kg warhead, compared to 10 kg for ASRAAM and 11,4 kg for IRIS-T. Overall, Gripen 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 Gripen 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.

Air-to-ground performance

Finding targets

Both aircraft have good visual search capability as canards are positioned far back and do not obstruct view of the ground (unlike in Typhoon). In such circumstances, Gripen’s limited rearward visibility is not a problem either. Rafale currently has the advantage of AESA radar, but both aircraft can use surveillance and targeting pods. Both Damocles and Litening pods offer high resolution IR imaginery and laser designation, and can overall be considered comparable.

Range

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.

Gripen with external weapons and tanks has 630 km combat radius in lo-lo-lo mission.

Payload

Rafale can carry a total of 9.500 kg of payload on 14 external hardpoints, of which 5 can carry fuel tanks or bombs. Additional two are avaliable for various pods, leaving 7 for missiles for self-defense.

Gripen can carry a total of 5.300 kg of payload on 7 external hardpoints, of which 3 can carry fuel tanks or bombs. Two wingtip hardpoints are only available for missiles, and two for pods.

As noted before, Gripen has 2,1:1 advantage in number of aircraft, and 1,69:1 advantage in total number of sorties. Difference in operating price may allow Gripen advantage in total number of sorties as high as 4,4:1. Consequently, Gripens can carry between 94% and 245% of the payload that Rafales can carry. However, this does not necessarily correspond to the payload delivered on target (pods and fuel tanks vs munitions, number of aircraft vs number of targets, losses in getting to target) and depending on mission requirements, advantage may go either way.

In terms of munition types, Rafale has Apache (anti-runway cruise missile with cluster submunitions), SCALP AG (based on Apache but with bunker-buster HE warhead), AASM (dumb bombs with guidance kits), Paveway (laser-guided bombs), AS-30 (bunker-busting air-to-ground missile), Exocet (anti-ship missile), Perseus (cruise missile, under development). Gripen has Maverick (EO, laser or IR guided air-to-ground missile used against vehicles), Taurus (bunker-busting cruise missile), RBS-15 (air-to-surface missile, primarily anti-ship), Paveway II (laser-guided bombs), BK90 (gliding stand-off cluster bomblet dispenser), Mk82 (unguided bomb). Overall there is not much practical difference.

Survivability

Rafale has better survivability than Gripen in air-to-ground missions, primarily due to more extensive self-protection suite and twin-engined configuration.

Performance in specific misisons

In deep strike, Rafale has advantage of range. 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 some advantage due to usage of more destructive 30 mm gun. 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. As standoff attacks may not be effective due to SAM mobility, both aircraft will need to utilize low-altitude attacks, in which area Rafale has survivability advantage of twin-engined configuration.

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 (?) kg/h cruise, 7.808 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 25.126 kg/h afterburning. Turnaround time is 30 minutes in air-to-air and 90 minutes in air-to-ground role.

Gripen can take off in 500 meters and land in 500 meters. Wingspan is 8,4 meters. Fuel consumption is 1.100 (?) kg/h cruise, 4.646 kg/h at maximum dry thrust and 14.664 kg/h afterburning. Turnaround time is 10 minutes in air-to-air and 20 minutes in air-to-ground role.

As it can be seen, there is major difference in aircraft on-ground survivability in Gripen’s favor. Gripen also requires far smaller maintenance support and far less fuel for operations, leading to reduced logistical footprint.

Conclusion

While Rafale is superior in tactical capability, Gripen’s lower logistical footprint and superior on-ground survivability make it superior in any war against a competent opponent, as the best aircraft in the world is useless if it cannot take off. Gripen’s lower logistical footpring and operating cost also mean that any air force will find it easier to properly train its pilots, which gives it a large advantage since human factors far outweight hardware factors in an actual shooting war. Overall, Rafale’s tactical advantage given by its superior raw performance is negated by Gripen’s strategic advantage.

Notes

Effective range is calculated by formula (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4, where RCS = radar cross section, while R=range.

Rafale vs Gripen, RBE-2 AESA

208 km vs 2 m2 target, Gripen 1,1 m2

278 km vs 1 m2 target, Gripen 1,7 m2

(RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4

(1,1/2) = (X/208)^4

4rt(1,1/2) = X/208

X = 208 * 4rt(1,1/2)

X = 179 km

X = 278 * 4rt(1,1/2)

X = 239 km

Gripen vs Rafale, PS-05A

80 km vs 1 m2 target, Rafale 0,25 m2

120 km vs 1m2 target, Rafale 1,15 m2

(RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4

(0,25/1) = (X/80)^4

X = 80 * 4rt(0,25)

X = 57 km

X = 80 * 4rt(1,15)

X = 83 km

X = 120 * 4rt (0,25)

X = 85 km

X = 120 * 4rt(1,15)

X = 124 km

It should also be noted that some of the capabilities of Gripen C discussed above (AESA radar, Meteor etc.) apply only to Gripen C brought up to the Gripen E standard.

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47 thoughts on “Dassault Rafale vs Saab Gripen

  1. Ironically, this may be the closest thing to the quality vs quantity debate we can have, since the Rafale is a better aircraft, but also more expensive and with a larger logistics footprint.

    I wonder if a denser projectile shell could be made for the GIAT 30mm and perhaps a higher velocity gun. Barrel life is not a big deal with these aircraft.

    • Denser projectile would likely require reducing HEI content, so I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. As for the higher velocity, that would be a good thing, and either longer barrel or larger explosive charge could do the trick. But the latter would require redesigning the entire gun.

  2. Off topic, but the F-35 has been having engine issues again.

    https://warisboring.com/another-f-35-stealth-jet-caught-on-fire-while-starting-its-engine-fe300018bc5c

    Lol.

    Here too is the latest DOT&E report on the F-35.
    https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3035572/DOT-amp-E-AF-IOC-Memo.pdf

    Most alarming is the tendency for the F-35 to the gun door (go to p 13)

    In addition, flight
    sciences testing of the F-35A recently revealed that the small doors that open when the
    gun shoots induce a yaw (i.e. sideslip), resulting in gun aiming errors that exceed
    accuracy specifications.

  3. You kind of cheated for Gripen when it came to BVR combat, because you made all calculations based on Gripen E avionics, while prices were those of the Gripen C. Gripen E is expected to cost about twice as much as Gripen C, due to the engine and several other components (radar IRST) being bought from foreign suppliers8, instead of being produced in Sweden as they were for C. Also price per hour of flight and turnaround time will probably go up due to increased complexity and lower availability of spares for the engine which will be brought from USA instead of being produced by Volvo. Meanwhile the price per hour of flight of the Rafale will go down once re-engined with the M88-ECO (planed for the 2020 or 2022 upgrade cycle), and due to the increasing availability of spare produced entirely in France.
    So my impression is that a Rafale F5 (circa 2025) vs Gripen E would be very close in numbers of sorties and numbers in the air. Also the slight advantage that Skyward gives to Gripen will be gone seeing as the IR component of OSF is expected to be upgraded by 2018, the TV component having been already upgrade to a multispectral one in 2012.

    • “You kind of cheated for Gripen when it came to BVR combat, because you made all calculations based on Gripen E avionics, while prices were those of the Gripen C.”

      I always used “basic” Gripen C version, except when noted otherwise.

      “So my impression is that a Rafale F5 (circa 2025) vs Gripen E would be very close in numbers of sorties and numbers in the air.”

      Possible. I actually don’t like Gripen E, they went in completely wrong direction with it. But then again, modern air forces care almost exclusively about bombing crap out of tribesmen (or their own civillians), not about a serious air war.

      • Picard, when you say you don’t like the Gripen E – they went in the wrong direction, please elaborate on that.

        • They focused too much on improving air-to-ground capabilities. We’ll see how much it will affect Gripen’s price and air-to capabilities, but if some data I have found is true (e.g. empty weight of 8.000 kg for E version), it seems to be turning into pseudo-F-35.

      • Weight is up 20%, engine power is up 20%.

        My best guess on the cost of the Rafale is US$120 million per copy, based on the Indian deal. Best guess on Gripen E cost is US$72 million based on the inflated price from the offer to the Dutch Air Force. Operating costs, as I understand them, are US$18,000 per hour for the Rafale and US$7,000 per hour for the Gripen C based on a Swedish Air Force number. Twin-engined aircraft cost 20% more to operate than singles all other things being equal. All in all, the aircraft have much the same proficiency but the Gripen has more interoperability with NATO weapons than the Rafale.

        • And wing area is up by how much? Fuel load is up by 33% if I recall correctly, so wing area will need to be increased by more than 20% if performance is to be maintained.

        • Reply to nonothai. The price you quote for the Rafale probably includes spares.

  4. In a serious war, money is not a factor. It won’t limit training. If I had to go to war with 1,000 planes, I would prefer 1,000 Rafales to 1,000 Gripens, be they C, E, NG…

    Agreed, in the tiny toy wars we have now, money is a factor. A factor similar to money is fuel. The Great 1,000 Year Reich ran seriously out of fuel by 1944. But it had run out of planes which could approach the battlefield well before that. For example the Fritz X guided missile could NOT be guided anymore as launch aircraft were interdicted within 30 kilometers of the objective. The German planes were just a bit too slow. Soon fast, long range American Mustangs accompanied the bomber fleets, and Germany got devastated, losing in particular its fuel production, transport and storage capacity.

    Thus, in real, total war, say Sweden against Russia, Sweden would be better off with a plane having the characteristics of Rafale. Taking off all too close to the enemy, from a road or not, won’t help. Gripen would have to in-flight refuel more often, putting tankers in dangers, etc.

    Another thing: Rafales can be used as strategic nuclear bombers. Rafales can refuel Rafales, and then the penetrating Rafale can fire a supersonic Mach 3+ with a 500 kilometer range armed with a 250 kiloton warhead. (Said missile will be soon replaced by a new generation, faster and thus stealthier).

    • “In a serious war, money is not a factor. It won’t limit training. If I had to go to war with 1,000 planes, I would prefer 1,000 Rafales to 1,000 Gripens, be they C, E, NG…”

      It’s too late to train once the war has already started. You have to train during the peace. And it won’t be 1.000 Rafales or 1.000 Gripens, but 1.000 Rafales to 1.500-2.000 Gripens. Not to mention that Rafale’s higher support requirements mean that road operations are problematic, and aircraft that have to fly from air bases are easily taken out, so it will be 500 Rafales vs 1.500-2.000 Gripens soon after the war starts.

      “But it had run out of planes which could approach the battlefield well before that. For example the Fritz X guided missile could NOT be guided anymore as launch aircraft were interdicted within 30 kilometers of the objective. The German planes were just a bit too slow. ”

      And super-fast Me-262 only made the situation worse. Why? Because it was precisely projects such as Me-262 which caused Germany to stop developing Me-109 properly, so it had neither quantity nor quality. Me-262 itself was nearly invulnerable once in the air… but it had to fly from dedicated air bases, it could not operate from overpasses and highways as Me-109 could, meaning that Allies simply bombed its air bases, and what Me-262s could take off were intercepted and shot down immediately after taking off. Heavier-than-air aircraft spend most of their time on the ground, they are actually “jump-craft”, not “air-craft”, so ignoring ground survivability is monumentally stupid.

      “Thus, in real, total war, say Sweden against Russia, Sweden would be better off with a plane having the characteristics of Rafale. Taking off all too close to the enemy, from a road or not, won’t help. Gripen would have to in-flight refuel more often, putting tankers in dangers, etc.”

      Rafale also has to take off “all too close” to the enemy, no Western fighter aircraft has sufficient combat radius to place its air bases out of danger of cruise missile strikes (not to mention that even if any had, amount of land is limited), and even if that wasn’t so, Sweden in particular has no depth of territory to do anything like what you are proposing.

      • I do not disagree with you about the ground survivability thing. It’s an important factor. Actually the question of insuring the safety of air bases was the proximal tactical reason why France asked for a cease-fire in June 1940 (it’s not well-known, and a long story).

        The Me 262 as we both know, was delayed two years by Hitler making it into a bomber (my father was bombed by it, twice). Had it showed up by the hundreds over the beaches at D Day, the Allies would have had to swim fast, and very far.

        So you are right about the Me109 (and the Nazis had fancier, very fast, 90% developed prop planes which could have replaced the Me109). It was never the plan of the Nazis to go to world war with all what France’s war declaration FORCED THEM TO GO TO WAR with. So they were flat-footed, and could never chose what to do, developing hundreds (literally!) of projects… The Brits were much smarter, developing long range bombers which were the undoing of the Great Reich (contrarily to legends to the contrary).

        Von Braun (a SS commander) and company were most helpful to the Allied cause by developing, to extravagant expense a useless rocket, the V2, instead of the efficient Wasserfall (which could have been used against bomber streams). So cost matter, indeed.

        However PM Chamberlain was right against Churchill (!) to develop new tech planes (Spitfire, Hurricanes) and produce them in smaller numbers than the hyper massive production Churchill had proposed of older planes. So this is a case where the few and expensive solution insured the survival of democracy. I guess that is what I had in the back of my mind.

        • “The Brits were much smarter, developing long range bombers which were the undoing of the Great Reich (contrarily to legends to the contrary). ”

          Not really, at least as far as medium bombers – Lancester etc. – were concerned. German military production continued to increase through the war up until Ploesti air fields were taken by the Red Army; any effect that strategic bombers had is impossible to measure. In fact, a few Mosquito tactical bombers had much greater effect than the entire RAF’s Strategic Bomber Command when they bombed Goering’s celebration which made him withdraw forces from the Battle for Britain back to protect Berlin.

          “Von Braun (a SS commander) and company were most helpful to the Allied cause by developing, to extravagant expense a useless rocket, the V2, instead of the efficient Wasserfall (which could have been used against bomber streams).”

          Oh, not just him. In fact, most such projects had their origin in Hitler. Not just V2, but also the Panther and Tiger tanks (Hitler personally insisted on increasing Panther’s front armour from 80 to 100 mm, which made it too heavy for the designed suspension), many superweapon projects (Maus, Ratte, railroad artillery, V1). All of these actually played into Allied hands by being inefficient, mostly ineffective, and causing huge logistical problems.

          “However PM Chamberlain was right against Churchill (!) to develop new tech planes (Spitfire, Hurricanes) and produce them in smaller numbers than the hyper massive production Churchill had proposed of older planes. So this is a case where the few and expensive solution insured the survival of democracy. I guess that is what I had in the back of my mind.”

          That is indeed true. But you have to keep in mind that these new tech planes could still be produced in huge numbers, and deployed from basically anywhere – a flat cow pasture with few barns and a mobile radar station was a perfect air base for Spitfires, which meant that taking them out by bombing air fields was ridiculously hard. Main problem, for the Great Britain as for the Germany later, were pilots. Britain actually produced far more Spitfires than they lost during the Battle for Britain but simply had no pilots to fly them all. Germany was the same: their aircraft production easily replaced any losses, not only during the Battle for Britain but even later, up to the late 1944. What they could not replace were pilots. So in that view, deploying the “high-tech” planes was the correct decision, but only as long as some basic requirements could be met. Me-262 achieved less than 1,5:1 kill/loss ratio against Allied fighters, partly because – as I have noted already – it could only be flown from vulnerable air bases. Meanwhile, M-109 could be operated from underneath highway overpasses and was thus far less vulnerable, but its development was neglected as the funds were redirected elsewhere.

    • The big problem is not being able to take off from rough fields, but keeping the aircraft supplied if you they do take off from rough fields. Even the large Su-27 can take off from a rough field. The problem is keeping it supplied.

      There is a similar analogy you could argue to the F-22. Only problem is, that unlike the Me-262, which would have fought Spitfires, P51 Mustangs, and similar Allied aircraft, the F-22 doesn’t have the advantages of in air to air combat. In some regards, against a Rafale or even a Gripen, it’s at a drawback.

      @Patrice, money is still a limit – you still are limited by the nation’s GDP. With the same amount of cash, let’s say that you could buy 2 Gripens per Rafale over the life of the aircraft. Let’s keep the numbers simple for this analysis.

      That is still means a 2^2 or 4x advantage with Lansing squared. So the Rafale would have to be 4x as good or it will lose. Granted, that number drops off to 1.6 to 1 with the sortie rates (8:1 flight to maintenance on Rafale vs 10:1 on Gripen). That still leaves a 1.6^2 or 2.56 numbers gap that the Rafale must win against the Gripen.

      IMO, the high turnaround will be a huge drawback though for the Rafale. It’s not just about flight to maintenance, but when you need the plane the most in the air.

      • “The big problem is not being able to take off from rough fields, but keeping the aircraft supplied if you they do take off from rough fields.”

        All of that is part of requirement for road base operations, and I did adress it.

  5. Dear Altandmain: GDP is somewhat irrelevant in all-out war. Consider Serbia versus Austria, for example. Or Frederik’s Prussia versus everybody. Etc. And I do agree that supplies from roads will be a problem. Also with cubesats and the like, it’s very hard to hide. Rafales can fly in from very far with in-flight refueling, as they already do. The real question then becomes the size of the tanker fleet (and France depends upon the US that way, BTW….)

    GDP measures the sum of all transactions. In a more socialized economy (not just the USSR, but present day France) it’s of less relevance.

    • It’s still a matter of a cheaper aircraft can be built more easily.

      Agree that GDP is a flawed metric, but what I was hinting at is that manufacturing capacity is still the bottleneck. You can expand manufacturing in war (and no doubt will take over all civilian manufacturing plus build new capacity in total war), but you will always end up building more of a cheaper, simpler aircraft than less.

      The question is, can the better, more complex aircraft out perform the simpler aircraft when outnumbered? Picard’s argument here is no.

      • I think the three of us actually agree. I am just insisting that it is an extremely complicated question. Cheaper, smaller, easily mass produced, is not necessarily superior for air superiority.

        An excellent example is the Japanese Zero: it was built in wood, was very small, with excellent performance. It dominated the US fighters early on. However the Americans then mass produced (hell with GDP!) planes which were just as fast, about as maneuverable, but heavily armored, including around the pilot. Conclusion: Zeroes started to go down in flames. US planes went down much less readily, and when they did, pilots tended to survive, after being recovered by submarines (as happened to G. Bush Senior!)

        • “An excellent example is the Japanese Zero: it was built in wood, was very small, with excellent performance. It dominated the US fighters early on. However the Americans then mass produced (hell with GDP!) planes which were just as fast, about as maneuverable, but heavily armored, including around the pilot. Conclusion: Zeroes started to go down in flames. US planes went down much less readily, and when they did, pilots tended to survive, after being recovered by submarines (as happened to G. Bush Senior!)”

          Indeed. Japanese, like Germans, ran out of the pilots even though the aircraft were being replaced. End result: Marianas Turkey Shoot. But modern aircraft are not replaced as easily as WWII fighters were, and pilots have to train during peacetime as the aircraft are more complex. Thus on-ground survivability and operating price have become a large factor in pilot proficiency and thus aircraft performance.

  6. Dear Picard: On the question of strategic bombing of Germany: I know a study came out, saying it had been ineffectual. However, as you observe, it’s pretty impossible to measure its effectiveness according to conventional means. As you say, production augmented, but production means nothing if the produced devices are defective or no well trained operators are available.

    So strategic bombing was found ineffective, by armchair generals, because it was measured by ineffectual means. The situation was simple: at its peak, when invading the USSR, the Wehrmacht had 4 million soldiers, invading. However that quickly shrank to three. Meanwhile, for years, a million soldiers were employed in anti-aircraft defense above Germany alone (more were in other places, like the submarine bases in France, etc.).

    By D Day, June 6, 1944, the Luftwaffe was completely absent from the skies. Whereas, when the Wehrmacht pierced at Sedan (or, more exactly, one of the Panzer Divisionen engaged did, the other was stuck), nearly the entire Luftwaffe had created a static mushroom cloud on the French frontline. the entire Normandy campaign was fought with total air superiority on the Allied side. To break through the Panzer Lehr, 1,500 strategic bombers bombed, dumping thousands of tons of bombs on that elite division (and killing a few hundreds Americans!) Still, it had buried itself, and fought for a few more days before final annihilation…

    I maintain that superiority of equipment is worth every penny. Consider the B29s operating at will above Japan. Now how the Japs got to that is a long story. But the fact that their fleet carriers were not of the quality of the US fleet carriers played an important role (sinking an American fleet carrier was much harder than sinking a Japanese one: the Lady Lex was scuttled at the Coral Sea, but many thought she could have been saved). The USA had decided to build 24 fleet carriers, elite, expensive machines: it was not a GDP program, but a command and control program. Elite Jap pilots, when not burned alive, ended feeding the sharks. The USA had more pilots intrinsically, especially after women pilots were mobilized.

    • “The situation was simple: at its peak, when invading the USSR, the Wehrmacht had 4 million soldiers, invading. However that quickly shrank to three. Meanwhile, for years, a million soldiers were employed in anti-aircraft defense above Germany alone (more were in other places, like the submarine bases in France, etc.). ”

      But that is not inherent advantage of strategic bombing, but rather stupidity of German military leadership. One advantage strategic bombing did create is that it drew out Luftwaffe and enabled its destruction. But the theory behind strategic bombardment – which is to say that it can win the war by destroying enemy production – utterly failed.

      “By D Day, June 6, 1944, the Luftwaffe was completely absent from the skies. Whereas, when the Wehrmacht pierced at Sedan (or, more exactly, one of the Panzer Divisionen engaged did, the other was stuck), nearly the entire Luftwaffe had created a static mushroom cloud on the French frontline. the entire Normandy campaign was fought with total air superiority on the Allied side. To break through the Panzer Lehr, 1,500 strategic bombers bombed, dumping thousands of tons of bombs on that elite division (and killing a few hundreds Americans!) Still, it had buried itself, and fought for a few more days before final annihilation… ”

      Panzer Lehr had destroyed itself through incompetence, they were out in the open like on a parade, and as you noted it still survived. But did those 1.500 strategic bombers do more than 4.500 dive bombers that would have been available had not strategic bombers been made? I don’t think so. In fact, it was fighters – P-47s in particular – which prevented the Normandy invasion from turning into a disaster. Had they not kept harassing German divisions en route, said divisions would have been within striking distance day after the invasion started. Because of P-47s, they took week to reach the front line, and were so mauled when they did that they were of little use.

      “I maintain that superiority of equipment is worth every penny. Consider the B29s operating at will above Japan. Now how the Japs got to that is a long story. But the fact that their fleet carriers were not of the quality of the US fleet carriers played an important role (sinking an American fleet carrier was much harder than sinking a Japanese one: the Lady Lex was scuttled at the Coral Sea, but many thought she could have been saved). The USA had decided to build 24 fleet carriers, elite, expensive machines: it was not a GDP program, but a command and control program. Elite Jap pilots, when not burned alive, ended feeding the sharks. The USA had more pilots intrinsically, especially after women pilots were mobilized.”

      Actually, it was quantity of equipment and quality of *personnel* operating that equipment which enabled US victory. Japan was not defeated because it ran out of carriers: it never did. Instead, Japan ran out of the pilots for its aircraft. Yes, better carriers could have helped delay that: but “better” in context of fighting a war does not mean more complex and expensive, or even “better” in terms of statistics (armoured protection, firepower, whatever). But in reality, United States could have won the war in Pacific without fielding a single fleet carrier. It was submarines that were the greatest player in Japanese defeat: thanks to them, Japan could not produce fuel it needed for war, could not produce steel for the machines. And without fuel you cannot train pilots, sailors, and it was untrained pilots which turned Japanese carriers into ineffectual steel boxes that they were during the latter part of the war (culminating in the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot). In the latter battles, most US aircraft came not from carriers, but from island bases.

      And that is why I place such importance on low operating cost and *ground survivability* for aircraft. Take a look at my FLX proposal to see what I mean:
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/air-superiority-fighter-proposal-6/

      To quote some parts:
      “In the end, large Allied numerical superiority won the air war; Germans were loosing pilots faster than they could replace them (aircraft were being replaced at an adequate rate). Near the end of the war, they introduced the Me-262; a heavily armed aircraft designed around the most advanced technology avaliable, it was called “the most formidable fighter” that the world has seen to date. Its high cruise speed made it hard for enemy pilots to attack it once it was in the air, and allowed it to engage enemy fighters at will. But it changed little; US fighter pilots learned to catch them when taking off or landing, and tactics were developed that allowed propeller aircraft to counter it in the aerial combat. In the end, Me-262s shot down 150 Allied aircraft for a loss of 100 Me-262s in air combat, of which 75 were shot down by fighters.”

      “Another lesson from World War II concerns ground attack aircraft, but is relevant for fighters too. P-47 had very low lethality against German tanks, yet Germans considered it the best anti-tank weapon employed on the Western front. Reason was that the P-47 flew so many sorties that any movement by German Panzer forces guaranteed that the same will be attacked, just as any sortie by the Me-262s guaranteed that they will be attacked by superior numbers of Allied turboprops.”

      “In 1966 Fairwind IV exercise, USN Phantom IVs faced old-model French fighters. At the very beginning, French airmen decimated US fighters while carrier was in process of recovering its fighters. As exercise progressed, it became clear that US aircrews were outclassed by French colleagues. This was especially problematic as exercise established requirement for VID to prevent the fratricide – and unlike US, French never stopped training for dogfight. Despite flying far older and “inferior” fighters, they always outperformed the US pilots. F-4 pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade John Monroe “Hawk” Smith quipped “We just had our collective asses handed to us by a second-rate military flying club flying a bunch of cheap, little airplanes by pilots who didn’t even hold down an honest sixteen hour-a-day job. We looked like a bunch of buffoons…”.”

      “When DACT was held between AdlA Rafales and Greek F-16s, Greek pilots prepared beforehand while Rafale pilots came unprepared. As a result, Greeks dominated the exercise despite Rafale being an overall superior aircraft even in early versions.”

      “Any new technology can be countered by appropriate tactics (which can then be countered by countertactics). In 1298, English used the longbow to break Scots at Falkirk, and to similar effects against French in 1346 at Crecy, 1356 at Poltiers and in 1415 at Agincourt. But unlike French, Scots learned their lesson and in 1314 at Bannockburn used cavalry to rout English archers before they deployed. Similarly, RAF in Iraq used obsolete biplanes to deny usage of air bases to modern German fighters deployed to help Arab rebels; Luftwaffe soon had to withdraw. Fact is that, while technology can add new dimensions to warfare, it cannot change nature of the war. Human competence – training, cohesion, adaptability – is always a decisive factor in weapons performance and typically outweights other considerations, such as numbers and technology. As such, no technology should be evaluated without adressing its impact on users. It is also wrong to use new technology to solve old problems (e.g. radar stealth, LPI radar) and ignore new tactical possibilities opened by usage of new technology (e.g. IRST).”

      “Large, visible air bases will get bombed or attacked by sappers. While speed, maneuverability and stealth enable aircraft to survive in the air, aircraft parked on the ramp of a typical air base has none of these characteristics. Between 1940 and 1992 there were 645 attacks on air fields, of which 384 were aimed at destroying the aircraft parked. 75% of the attacks used standoff weapons, while remaining attacks were penetrating (22%) or combined. Between 1940 and 1943, British Special Forces destroyed 367 Axis aircraft in North Africa. USAF in Vietnam quickly developed countermeasures against penetrating attacks, but no effective countermeasures against standoff attacks have been implemented up until the end of the war. During the Afghan War, guerillas used man-portable SAMs to shoot down Soviet aircraft when taking off and landing.

      During invasion of Crete, RAF used revetments to protect fighters from indirect hits, but aircraft were eventually evacuated. Yet no attempt was made to render air fields unusable, and they were eventually captured and used by German invasion force transports. Revetments are also useful in limiting damage done if aircraft is destroyed by satchel charge. Same measures were used by USAF in Vietnam, as well as armored concrete shelters.

      Air attacks are also a major threat. In fact, Allied air bases in World War II were subjected to attacks through the entire war – Germans bombed RAF air fields in the 1940 Battle for Britain, and in the 1945 they launched Operation Bodenplatte, destroying or damaging 500 Allied aircraft. Most of the Soviet Air Force was destroyed on the ground during Operation Barbarossa, and such attacks were commonplace through the entire war.

      Again, Gulf Wars were an anomalous point – Iraqis were poorly motivated, uncreative and incompetent adversary, and made no effort at all to attack Coalition air bases, despite the fact that these air bases were closer to Iraq and Yemen than German air bases were to British lines in North Africa.

      Reliance on fixed air bases not only increases vulnerability to attacks and possibility of enemy capturing the bases and using them for his own purposes, but also decreases flexibility and ability to generate sorties. STOL and rough basing capabilities are thus a must.

      Yet US Air Force, and most European air forces (except Flygvapnet) operate under assumption that close and secure air bases will be avaliable in order to generate sufficient sorties. However, there is a number of threats that make typical air bases, as well as aircraft carriers, unviable. Ballistic missiles, bombers and cruise missiles can take out both air bases and ships; carriers are also under a very real danger of attack by submarines and fast attack craft. Ballistic missiles have range of 800-2500 km, while Flankers carrying ASCMs can attack ships 1.350 km from their bases. Missiles with submunition warheads could destroy 75% of the aircraft stationed at the typical USAF air base.

      Fighter will have to be capable of flying from a two-lane highway. Lane width typically varies from 2,5 to 3,25 meters minimum width in Europe, with US Interstate Highway System standard width being 3,75 meters; same width is standard in most of European countries. Shoulder width in US is 3 meters on outside and 1,2 m on the inside, and in Europe it is 2,5 meters.

      As a result, allowable wing span is between 7,5 and 10 meters, both values being less than in a previous proposal. To give a safety limit as well as allow as many European roads to be utilized as possible, starting wingspan goal will be =<8,75 meters, with 7,4 meters being optimum (assuming that it can be achieved without compromising other characteristics such as wing loading)."

      • Bodenplatte was a disaster for the Nazis: they destroyed or damaged 500 Allied flying machines, but lost many experienced pilots and commanders, leaving them with… nothing.

        Indeed, the Allied replaced their material losses within a week, thanks to their huge industrial production of superb equipment, expertly made. They had lost relatively few experienced pilots.

        Had the Allied contrived some plot to entice the Luftwaffe to sortie with 1,000 planes to get their last good pilots and instructors killed, they could not have conspired something more twisted than Bodenplatte.

        Three things contributed the most to Nazi defeat: first the fact 1) the fact that the French Republic chose the timing of the war, 5 years early, as far as Hitler was concerned.
        2) The fact that the Luftwaffe had a pyrrhic victory in 1940. Between the Battle of France and Britain it lost hundreds of its best pilots (this did not happen to the British pilots, who were recovered).

        This led to: 3) Thanks to 1), the Luftwaffe was stuck with increasingly obsolete equipment (all resources were towards replenishing destroyed equipment, something like 5,000 aircrews shot down, in 1940 alone). This had dramatic consequences. Famously, once when a convoy passed in the Arctic, from the UK to the USSR, 50 Nazi planes were shot down. After that, the Nazis could not really try to stop the (vital) convoys anymore.

        I believe the ‘production’ numbers of Speer and company to be fantasy. Some planes famously came unglued in flight.

        • “Three things contributed the most to Nazi defeat: first the fact 1) the fact that the French Republic chose the timing of the war, 5 years early, as far as Hitler was concerned.
          2) The fact that the Luftwaffe had a pyrrhic victory in 1940. Between the Battle of France and Britain it lost hundreds of its best pilots (this did not happen to the British pilots, who were recovered).
          This led to: 3) Thanks to 1), the Luftwaffe was stuck with increasingly obsolete equipment (all resources were towards replenishing destroyed equipment, something like 5,000 aircrews shot down, in 1940 alone). This had dramatic consequences. Famously, once when a convoy passed in the Arctic, from the UK to the USSR, 50 Nazi planes were shot down. After that, the Nazis could not really try to stop the (vital) convoys anymore.”

          I’d say that loss of pilots was of even greater importance. During the Battle of Britain most Luftwaffe losses were strategic (medium) bombers. These were far more expensive than fighters, and had crew of 4-5 compared to 1 pilot for fighters and 2 for dive bombers. During the Dunkirk evacuation alone, RAF lost 177 aircraft destroyed or damaged, while Germans lost 240 (other sources I found give 106 aircraft lost for RAF and 150 aircraft for Luftwaffe). Assuming that 80% air crews were lost, and given that most German aircraft lost were bombers with average crew of four, Germans lost five times as many airmen as British did. Main problem for Germans were air crews: by 14 September, the Luftwaffe’s Bf 109 Geschwader possessed only 67% of their operational crews against authorised aircraft. For Bf 110 units it was 46 per cent; and for bombers it was 59 per cent. Aircraft were adequately replaced; air crews were not. British also had the advantage in that they fought over their own soil, most air crews were recovered, so actual loss rate for British fighter units were around 50%.

          You might want to read this as well, Chapter 7:
          http://www.blisty.cz/files/knihy/pentagon-reform/americas-defense-meltdown_full-text.pdf

          “I believe the ‘production’ numbers of Speer and company to be fantasy. Some planes famously came unglued in flight.”

          Oh, they were. But they still managed to replace aircraft losses more-or-less adequately until USSR captured Ploesti air fields.

      • The problem is not running out 9f aircraft.

        The problem is running out of good pilots and fuel. The top 5 percent of pilots are the key ones. Fuel is important for sortie rates, and also for training. Without adequate fuel, no training and numbers are possible.

        The other is numbers. Lansing square vastly favors the side with more numbers. The Axis was at a huge drawback even if they did everything right.

        • Today, running out of aircraft is also a serious problem. They can’t be replaced as easily as they could be in World War II, and as most fighters can operate only out of vulnerable air bases, many will get taken out on the ground. Heck, it happened even during World War II, when fighters could fly from grass pastures.

      • Fair enough, except maybe for the Gripen. Not sure an Su-27 family aircraft could do it, even if they do have the ability to land/take-off from rough airfields (impressive for an aircraft their size admittedly).

        To me the bigger problem is running out of the good pilots than planes. Air combat seems to follow the power law distribution, where a handful of pilots are truly awesome. The problem is that only a percentage of pilot cadets ever reach that level.

        A good pilot is an investment of hundreds and preferably many thousands of hours of hard training. Considering the costs of maintaining an aircraft over the lifespan, the pilot is far more valuable than the plane. The other priority IMO, is to capture downed pilots at all costs. Aircraft cost a lot more to maintain than WW2 (save maybe cheap turboprops), so that means that pilots are proportionately more valuable.

        The other big lesson I got from WW2 was that bombing cities hardens the population’s will to fight, rather than weakening it. A better option is to concentrate a lot of energy on taking out oil. I doubt that modern oil refineries would do much better than their counterparts in WW2.

        • That is true if you focus on air combat. But with modern airfield-restricted-hard-to-replace aircraft, pilots may never get a chance to use their aircraft in the first place. No matter how good a pilot is, if he doesn’t have an aircraft to fly in, he’s irrelevant. Of course, it is unlikely that all aircraft will be destroyed, but they can still get stuck in the ground, and with complex aircraft it will be hard to get such good pilots in the first place.

  7. Greetings.

    Nice comparison. I would like to emphasize the advantage of Gripen when it comes to the combat turnaround time. Being able to have an airplane up in the sky and ready for combat in less than 20 minutes is an enormous advantage when you go to a war; it makes it very hard for the opponent to successfully catch you off guard or allows you to support your troops very quickly. Overall, I believe that the conclusion of this analysis gives justice to the situation as it is; Rafale is a much better aircraft when your army can support this demanding but highly capable tool- it will be no easy issue to take advantage of this airplane. Moreover, I think that Rafale has an upgraded version of an IR sensor, which makes it even more competitive when it comes to ”pure combat” skils. Gripen on the other side has fewer capabilities but also fewer demands – it’s easier to train pilots, have the airplane up in the sky, find fuel for it or acquire it in increased numbers. Given that in a full-scale war the most difficult ”parts” to be replaced are the…humans (pilots), the advanced numbers of Gripen or the fuel needed, do not seem that important of a disadvantage; in the end. I would go with the Rafale. In any case, for Greece the enemy is not the Gripen but the F-35 and personally, I would like to have something highly advanced against it, such as Rafale or (my personal choice) an improved F18.

    • But can Greece operate Rafales? I’m not so sure. If you can, go for it, but bombing F-35s air bases with submunition warheads might be far more effective and cheaper. And compared to F-18, Gripen C+ (Gripen C with Gripen E avionics, such as IRST) would be a far better choice.

      • Why not? Greece already operates Mirage 2000s so it is not foreign to French airplanes. The financial concerns are not of concern for two reasons: First of all, we are not talking about an immediate acquisition but about a potential one, somewhere around 2025. Secondly, air superiority over the Aegean is a matter of life and death in the upcoming confrontation. With regard to the alpha strike, this is also out of question (political reasons). But I still believe there are other ways to confront F35 than just attack it on the ground (despite being a good strategy). I am not convinced that F35 will be 100% stealth : Multistatic arrays, highly capable IR systems, etc- Picard you wrote some good articles on F35, you know its vulnerabilities better than me. I strongly believe that HAF ought to structure its defense on these issues and drag F35 to fight over a field where its advantages are of no use (e.g.. dogfights).

        ps. i apologise for the bad syntax of the previous message- i wrote it in a hurry.

        • “Why not? Greece already operates Mirage 2000s so it is not foreign to French airplanes. The financial concerns are not of concern for two reasons: First of all, we are not talking about an immediate acquisition but about a potential one, somewhere around 2025. Secondly, air superiority over the Aegean is a matter of life and death in the upcoming confrontation. With regard to the alpha strike, this is also out of question (political reasons).”

          There is an issue of spares as well as Rafale’s own on-ground survivability. Gripen is designed for road base operations, Rafale – while theoretically capable of these – was not. So if (when) air bases are destroyed, Gripen is easier to keep in operation. Rafale does have the advantage that you only have to deal with one supplier and US are not really able to veto any supplies / spares (Gripen uses US engine and a lot of US-made parts).

          “But I still believe there are other ways to confront F35 than just attack it on the ground (despite being a good strategy). I am not convinced that F35 will be 100% stealth : Multistatic arrays, highly capable IR systems, etc- Picard you wrote some good articles on F35, you know its vulnerabilities better than me. I strongly believe that HAF ought to structure its defense on these issues and drag F35 to fight over a field where its advantages are of no use (e.g.. dogfights).”

          Attacking on the ground is the easiest way, and does not necessarily have to be a preemptive strike. Remove your own aircraft from the bases, intercept the F-35s while they carry their own strikes (or let them do it and follow them home) and then blow up F-35s own air bases. Of course, F-35 is not invisible, so it is possible to stop them from carrying out their own strikes in the first place, but a lot depends on how many aircraft Greece gets and how many Turkey (Turkey getting turkeys, lol). Of course, when carrying bombs and with only 2 missiles in bays, F-35 will be at even greater disadvantage than usual.

          “I strongly believe that HAF ought to structure its defense on these issues and drag F35 to fight over a field where its advantages are of no use (e.g.. dogfights).”

          Agreed, that is the best way. In that area, Rafale would be better than Gripen because of higher cruise speed (Mach 1,4 for Rafale, Mach 1,1 Gripen C, Mach 0,95 F-35), but air combat is not the only aspect of war in the air.

      • “There is an issue of spares as well as Rafale’s own on-ground survivability. Gripen is designed for road base operations, Rafale – while theoretically capable of these – was not. So if (when) air bases are destroyed, Gripen is easier to keep in operation. Rafale does have the advantage that you only have to deal with one supplier and US are not really able to veto any supplies / spares (Gripen uses US engine and a lot of US-made parts).”

        I’m with Πάτε καλά on this. Have you seen the roads in Greece? Especially in the Greek islands. I don’t think one can find more then 10 instances with 800 meters of straight road with 0 degree gradient, on which Gripen could operate, so the number of sites for dispersed operations is limited if one considers road basing. Greece, on the other hand, has another more logical choice for dispersed operations, improvised ad-hoc airstrips on the many Greek Islands in the Aegean. It’s a more logical basing because the islands don’t have anything worth bombing, all worthwhile targets are in the main land. The Islands however are placed in such a way that any strike from Turkey must pass over them to get to the juicy targets on the mainland. So by using them to base fighters one has the option of launching defense fighters after the Turkish F-35s past overhead and thus intercepting them form behind where the tremendous (sorry watched the debate last night) heat of the F-135 engine will make it a juice target for any IR seeker. For such kind of operations the best option is the Rafale M. It can take much more rough landings then the B/C or Gripen and it can use it’s arresting hook to significantly shorten the landing run, this is done by the Finnish with their F-18 when they road base them. It is also much more resistant to sea water corrosion which would be a problem in the islands. One could imagine improvised short strips of 200 m or so being constructed on the peaks of Greek islands with a negative gradient so that the aircraft rolls down hill for take-off and thus gets a lowering of take-off speed.

        • Yes, in that case Rafale M would be a good choice simply from basing point of view. I have seen roads in Dalmatia (I am from there), but even at Zadar-Split and Split-Dubrovnik relations that I am familiar with there are many segments from which Gripen could operate, so I assumed Greece is similar. But that does not adress logistical support requirements of a twin-engined fighter, which are the main problem I have with Rafale.

    • I personally am against the F18 and oppose Canada buying the Super Hornet. It has some serious wing drop issues that were never 100 percent resolved and the fix degraded performance even more.

      Plus it was an inferior aircraft to the YF 16 to begin with. F18 was worse and Super Hornet even worse. The French pilots who flew both were not impressed.

  8. Hello Again @Picard578 im going to digress from the current Analysis at ask you your opinion of the flanker E, Su 35 if you have a link to another blog please share

  9. Pingback: m88

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