Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why the Eurofighter Typhoon is the best fighter for Canada... Right now.

That's right.  I said it.

David Pugliese's Defense Watch blog over at the Ottawa Citizen has had several guest writers extolling the virtues of various fighter aircraft for Canada.  Starting with Gripen, and followed by the Super Hornet, F-35, and the Rafale.  With no sign of an article in favor of the Eurofighter Typhoon, I took it upon myself to give the Typhoon "equal time".

I'm glad I did.  Mr. Pugliese was gracious enough to print my piece, and the response has (mostly) been positive.

You can find the piece here (part 1), here (part 2), and here (part 3).

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2014/04/14/why-the-eurofighter-typhoon-is-the-best-fighter-for-canada-right-now-part-1/

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2014/04/14/why-the-eurofighter-typhoon-is-the-best-fighter-for-canada-right-now-part-2/

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2014/04/16/why-the-eurofighter-typhoon-is-the-best-fighter-for-canada-right-now-part-3/

You will notice, that the stipulation "Right now" is added to the 3-part article's title.  This is deliberate.  The Typhoon has its issues, but I do believe it is the best of the bunch as it stands at the present time.  Don't worry though, I am still an adamant supporter of the Saab Gripen E/F strictly on a cost/benefit ratio, and the Boeing Advanced Super Hornet looks fantastic.  I also like to think that I have enough of an open mind to consider the F-35 when and if it gets the bugs worked out.

If there was a need for fighters NOW, however, Canada realistically only has 3 choices.  The "regular" Super Hornet, the Rafale, and the Typhoon.  Neither the F-35 or Gripen E/F are ready yet, so that counts them out.

The Rafale would require time and money to convert to Canada's NATO standard AMRAAMs, etc, and its missing a few "must haves" like helmet mounted display (HMD).  It also has a rather small radar, even if it is an AESA.

The Super Hornet, on the other hand, would be a much easier transition, but it's performance just doesn't match that of the Typhoon or Rafale.

By contrast, the Typhoon is pretty damn good as it is, and there's room for future improvements.  There's very little reason not to select it, other than its reputation for high cost, which may not be so bad when put into context.

This isn't about to become "Typhoon4Canada" though.  I still want to see a full and open competition weighing the performance and economic benefits of each aircraft.  That's the only way it can be determined for sure which fighter is the best for Canada.

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, I noticed your contribution only few hours before this post!
    At the beginning of your blog you wrote that Typhoon and Rafale would have been tied for the second place if you were to rank Canada's choices. It seems you have now made your choice.

    This series of posts on Defense Watch blog was very interesting, and it is good all contenders got their time. Nevertheless, was it needed to "oversell" the aircrafts to be published? Because each post contains some surprising claims. I'm sorry but I have also done the fact checking with yours ;)

    There are some tricky number matters :
    - you write about service ceiling (55,000 ft) and give the absolute ceiling value (65,000 ft);
    - you change a bit the rate of climb with 65,000 ft/min instead of the frequently quoted 62,000 ft/min;
    It's even more surprising to see that you actually wrote the 55,000ft and 62,000ft/min values in your table "How the Five Fighters stack up" on this blog!
    By the way, I checked the service ceiling for Rafale, which is 50,000ft and not 55,000ft as written in your table.
    At the end, Typhoon is superior on these features, even with the little corrections. Kinematic performance is clearly its strength, Swiss technical evaluation also praised the very good performance of the Typhoon.

    There is also the thing with weapons, especially anti-ship and anti-radiation missile about which I am very skeptical. But, as you mentioned, Storm Shadow and KEPD 350 Taurus integrations seem clearly under way.

    But there is something that literally made me fall from my chair. Something BIG. WTF with the claim about T/R modules on RBE2? 800-900? You were tough on this one! We only know this is around 1,000, and the exact number is classified anyway. Without an explicit reference, that's close to misinformation.
    It is true that Rafale nose is considered small, but we must not forget that a more powerful radar also means more electrical power to "extract" from engines, and more thermal power to dissipate!
    The good news is that with such understatement about its performance, Rafale will likely continue to surprise some people...

    Conversely, about price I mostly agree with you. As always, "true" cost difference is difficult to evaluate.
    My personal guess is that Eurofighter is slightly more expensive to buy than Rafale for some logical reasons : heavier, more powerful, and greater production number penalized by a complicated industrial structure. In addition, I think Eurofighter CPFH is slightly higher than Rafale CPFH, also because being heavier and more powerful.
    But for Canada, Rafale comes with the additional cost of integration for AMRAAM, maybe other weapons, and even a "desperately missing" HMD.
    So, the not-so-simple-equation is about a cheaper airframe and CPFH to be worth the additional integration cost.

    Finally, thank you for your post : Typhoon is Rafale's brother and also deserve, as you wrote "certainly deserves consideration".

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  2. My piece on the the Typhoon was weighted towards its strengths. The Rafale had already received an excellent write up, and I believe that the Typhoon deserved to be represented as best as I could do it.


    Those numbers I wrote have all been double checked, if some our incorrect, I apologize, but I can only go by what the sources tell me. The altitude is a rather moot point, since 65,000ft requires special life-support equipment.


    The Rafale's radar was tricky. Notice that I give it a range instead of an exact number. The best I got was a calculation based on the size of the T/R modules vs. the size of the radar plate and their arrangement. The Rafale's nose is rather small in comparison to the Typhoon, roughly the size of the smaller Gripen. The Typhoon's big nose does give it an advantage here. The Rafale does have the advantage of being first out of the gate however, as neither the Typhoon or the Gripen even have AESA radars yet, something I mention in the article.


    My biggest issue with the Rafale, and it is minor, is that it currently doesn't use NATO standard AMRAAMs and Sidewinders. No offense against the Micas (excellent missiles from what I can see) but Canada doesn't currently stock them. This adds an extra layer of complexity that counts against the Rafale as it stands right now.


    In the end, this was the determining factor between the Rafale and Typhoon. The Typhoon would simply be an easier fit into our infrastructure. This is assuming that prices are relatively comparable. Dassault could easily win favor with a superior offset deal, price, or the like.

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  3. You know, I am in full agreement with you about the idea that all contenders deserve a proper coverage. Especially the Typhoon and its very interesting features.

    My comment was only about a fraction of the substance of your post. I was just a bit surprised you didn't quote the same values you wrote on this blog.

    Now I know about your tricky calculations about Rafale's radar, I understand better. Pretty impressive. Did you do the same with others? Size of radar plate and T/R modules, that's pretty specific!

    We already discussed what we could called the "AMRAAM issue". I understand the Canadian need and I agree with you completely. No argument here.

    To be honest, I have a load more comments about the Rafale post by Yves Pagot than your very good one.

    By the way, I see something else very interesting about the Typhoon HMD : "While the Typhoon’s Striker Helmet Mounted Display may lack the sophistication of the F-35’s troubled HMD, it does offer many of the same features, such as being able to 'look through the aircraft' ". I didn't know it has the look-through aircraft feature, which sensors does it use to "see" the outside?

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  4. There was an F-15SE article. I liked that article..

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