Currently, three European fighters of the “4” generation are looking for a place under the sun in the arms market: the French Rafale, a joint product of Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain – EF-2000 Eurofighter and Swedish JAS-39 “Gripen”.
Surely, many will notice that “Gripen” by mass is in a different category and the comparison of these aircraft is not quite correct. I’m fully aware of that. But these three fighters are equally competing with each other in tenders for the supply of combat vehicles and the potential buyer chooses from those that the Europeans can offer at present.
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When creating fighters in front of the designers set different goals. Eurofighter was originally conceived as a fighter of air superiority and as an interceptor. This purpose was zealously defended by Germany. It can be understood that it was in “front-line” positions regarding the Warsaw Pact countries. And it was necessary to oppose something to such magnificent air fighters as MiG-29 and Su-27. The task was to obtain high maneuverable characteristics at subsonic and super-vu speed. And the UK has traditionally paid a lot of attention to interceptors. Very often its Royal Air Force had to “intercept” Russian strategic bombers.
The French also aimed to create a high-level aircraft. They did not have an urgent need for interceptors. Around allies ready to meet a potential common enemy. They needed a multifunctional fighter with high strike and reconnaissance capabilities, able to fend for themselves in air combat. France’s imperial ambitions have not disappeared since the collapse of the colonial empire. The Fifth Republic is zealous about its former colonies and tries not to let them out of its influence. These countries regularly supply France with natural resources. To control and possibly put pressure on their former colonies, the French need a “long hand” in the form of aircraft carriers (now in service the only one remained) and strike aircraft capable of reaching any corner of their “empire”.
The country’s budget could not afford to create several types of aircraft to carry out all tasks. Therefore, it was decided to create a single aircraft for the Air Force and Navy with a high degree of unification, capable of being based on an aircraft carrier. Accordingly, for the aircraft with priority on impact abilities considered unnecessary speeds above THE MJ1.8, which simplified the design of air intakes, which made unregulated. Great attention was paid to stealth technologies that increase the chances of survival when hitting ground targets and in air combat.
Sweden is a neutral country with highly developed industry, including military, all post-war years trying, as far as possible, to cope with their own forces in the supply of weapons for its own army. The country’s potential is much lower than that of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The development and creation of modern aircraft is very expensive. After much debate, the Swedish Government decided to create a single multifunctional fighter capable of replacing the country’s interceptor fighters, fighter-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. The main idea of “Gripen” – the creation of an aircraft with maximum combat capabilities at a minimum cost. This allowed, in addition to reducing the cost of development, hopes for a good commercial success of “Gripen” , as most countries financial opportunities will not allow to operate expensive aircraft.
Two modifications, JAS 39C and JAS 39E, will be presented in the comparative analysis for Sweden. The main modification in service with the exploiting countries is JAS 39C. THE JAS 39E is a much improved version of the aircraft, the first flight of which took place in 2017. To date, there are two customers – the Swedish Air Force – 60 aircraft (with an option for another 10) and the Brazilian Air Force -36 aircraft.
Rafale vs Gripen vs Eurofighter Typhoon
From the table data, the first thing that throws the superiority of “Rafael” in the number of suspension points, the maximum combat load. The gap is quite noticeable. And on weight, he’s in the lead. How important is this in real combat use? The maximum possible suspension of weapons is generally not used. So it makes sense to consider the typical configurations of the combat load.
All 13 suspension points are used on the EF-2000
Note.1 – The British cite the armament of 18 SD Brimstone as a typical load. With a real combat flight, most likely, the load will be less.
All three aircraft have roughly equal capabilities in solving typical tasks. It is worth noting that Rafale can take more fuel to the PTB. Eurofighter has a greater focus on solving problems against air targets. Western sources point to much smaller JAS 39C capabilities, but as you can see from the table it looks quite decent compared to competitors and its fighting qualities are quite sufficient for most potential importing countries.
According to such characteristics as the range of Rafale and Eurofighter have good performance. Thus, when used on ground targets, the range of “Rafale” is:
4 UR MICA, 12 bombs weighing 250 kg and 2 PTB 2000 liters -1055 km;
2 SCALP EG, 2 UR MICA and 3 PTBs of 2,000 litres – 1,850 km.
2 KAB for 900 kg and 2 PTBs of 1000 liters on the profile of large-small-high height – 1300 km;
2 KAB by 900 kg, 2 PTBs for 1000 liters and 1 PTB 1500 liters on the profile of small-small-small height – 600 km.
If used as an interceptor, the range of Eurofighter is 1,390 km, Rafale has a range of 1,760 km (from 8 UR MICA, 3 PTBs to 2000 liters).
Eurofighter can carry three PTBs – two with a capacity of 1000 liters and one 1500 liters, Rafale is larger in number and capacity – up to 5 PTBs (theoretically the maximum possible option is one PTB 3000 liters, two by 2000 liters and two by 1250 liters, a real one-three PTB is used), which with approximately equal internal fuel supply gives the French aircraft a benefit.
The shortest range is JAS 39C – 800 km. This option meets the requirements of the Swedish Air Force, but for possible countries buyers it is not enough if there are strong competitors with higher performance. This flaw has been corrected by the JAS 39E modification, which has a range of 1,300 km. In particular, thanks to this Swedes were lucky in the tender for the supply of multifunctional fighters for Brazil, which won THE JAS 39E (the size of this country is quite large and the requirements for the duration of flight and flight range are appropriate).