Thursday, July 28, 2011
The Eurofighter Conundrum
The problems associated with the development of the F-35 fighter program are well known. The problems associated with its main competitor are not well known to the American public. U.S politicians constantly complain (particularly democrats) about our 5th generation fighter programs but fail to see the spectacular failures of less advanced and yet, MORE EXPENSIVE aircraft built by our allies. For example, the Eurofighter Typhoon costs more per unit than a F-35A and is LESS capable.
These spectacular failures don't diminish the problems of the F-35 program, they merely add perspective. This article makes the case that buyers of the Eurofighter should seriously consider switching to the F-35 assuming they have strong enough diplomatic ties with the United States.
Head to Head Comparison
From this chart it initially seems as if the Eurofighter surpasses the F-35 in many categories. However, this initial glance is deceptive for three reasons. One, many of the initial figures will change in regards to the F-35 because they are currently classified. You may notice the + symbol near some of the figures or the outright "classified" designation in the rate of climb category. The U.S government does not want to publicly disclose all of the information about its latest jet just yet. They did the same thing for the F-22A raptor. More information has been released about the raptor since it entered service and I expect the same will hold true for the F-35.
Secondly, the F-35 is literally a generation ahead of the Eurofighter when it comes to avionics. The Eurofighter currently lacks AESA radar. Although it will be upgraded with an AESA system latter on (developed by Thales)it will have nowhere near the number of transmit/receive modules as the AN/APG-81.
Thirdly, this is the main reason why the F-35 is superior to the Eurofighter, STEALTH. This concept cannot be emphasized enough. Stealth varies and by no means equates to total invisibility BUT the unique capabilities gained from a heavily reduced radar cross section are invaluable in a dogfight and when confronted with advanced integrated air defense systems. To demonstrate this point, I included detection range by SU-35S near the bottom of the table. The SU-35S,a highly capable 4.5 generation fighter developed by the Russian Federation, is equipped with NIIP irbis-E radar system. The NIIP irbis-E would detect and be able to engage the Eurofighter at 150 miles away while it would not be able to detect the F-35 until it was 28 miles away. This is the difference between life and death.
Although the two aircraft have never officially undertaken simulated dogfights against one another, French Rafales (4.5 delta wing canard fighters very similar to the Eurofighter) fought F-22A raptors (which share many similarities to the F-35).In the dogfight, the F-22A raptors emerged victorious. The simulated dogfight occurred within visual range of each other.(The following is quoted from Arabian Aerospace).
"Lt Col Lansing Pilch, commander of the 27th, and of the F-22 deployment to Al Dhafra, was categoric in stating his view of the Raptor’s performance during the exercise. He confirmed that the six Raptors flew undefeated, against all opponents. Pilch said: 'In every test we did, the Raptors just blew the competition out of the water.'”
Given that the F-35 is slightly cheaper than the Eurofighter, AND has stealth capabilities plus more advanced avionics, the F-35 is the clear choice between the two.
1.)Global Security; http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-35.htm
2.)Air Power Australia; http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Flanker-Radars.html
3.)Lockheed Martin; http://www.lockheedmartin.com/products/f35/f-35A-ctol-variant.html
Additional Reading: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/03/eurofighter_nao_analysis/