Kirk Webber's fighter comparison

This picture is accurate.  The Gripen really is that small and the Super Hornet really is that big!

For those of you out there who like to crunch numbers, here's one for you.

Reader Kirk Webber has compiled this excellent spreadsheet filled with information on modern western fighters that could be potential CF-18 replacements.  This information includes information pertaining to the current CF-18 Hornet (as a baseline), as well as for the F-22 Raptor (as a comparison).

I have not tampered with the data in anyway, but I did modify the format somewhat (fonts, colored columns, etc) in an attempt to make it more "readable".  There is A LOT of data here, and I haven't been able to confirm all of it.

Numbers alone do not tell a complete story, of course.  Factors like reliability, commonality, ergonomics, and others are hard to express as a simple numerical value.  Other factors need to valued depending on context.  For example, stealth is much more useful as a first-day strike capability than it is for performing close-air-support over uncontested airspace.  As usual, I encourage my readers to make their own decisions.

[NOTE:  If you have trouble viewing the document, you may need to click the "Download" button and view the PDF in a dedicated PDF viewer.  It's about 160k, no malware, I promise!]

I am going to invite Mr. Webber to monitor this page so that he can answer any questions you might have regarding sources or methodology.

Thanks again Kirk!  Your work here is greatly appreciated.


  1. I would sure like to read it but it's too small and when I zoom in, it's blurry :)

    Keep up these articles, I really enjoy reading them.

  2. Sorry about that, it's an issue with the way scribd compresses the file for online viewing.

    If you select "Download" you should be able to access the full size version of the PDF file. It's not a overly huge file, about 160k.

  3. Very nicely put together. This is consistent
    with the information that is out there from this blog and other internet sites.
    You wonder if the Canadian government is getting this information or has
    it just become politics? From information like this there are winners and
    losers, but truly a competition can only determine that.

    What would the RCAF like:

    Twin engines,

    Tail hook,

    Long range,

    Carries a good weapons load,

    Comes in a two seater

    100+ fighters at the end of the day. (Canada bought
    130 CF-18 fighters and there are only around 80 operational now – 61% left?) You really should not buy less , unless you
    plan to buy upgrade models in the future.

    Well, again the Rafale wins. Seriously, this Blog knows that I am a Rafale
    Fan, because it really meets all the needs Canada has. In addition, I would like to see a
    Dassault/Bombardier collaboration on this fighter and future development. It has been said may times that countries are
    not going to be able to go it alone of future fighter development due to the

    At the end of the day I would be happy if the
    government did not pick the flying brick with sensors and no weapons (F-35) and
    picked up either the Rafale, or Eurofighter, or F-15SE, or even the F-18.

  4. I notice you didn't mention Gripen? :p I'm kind of impressed with the range and cost of that fighter. To me the gripen ng seems to be the spiritual successor to what the JSF was ment to be, an economical fighter jet that can fulfil multiple duties. But this comparison shows there are many formidable alternatives to the costly f35. The Rafale in particular does seem to show stellar performance at a more reasonable cost than most.

  5. I did not mention the Gripen because I think Canada needs a twin engine aircraft. Too bad there is nothing available that is configured like the Russians have. There concept is to have the engines separated so that if one gets hit the other maybe able to still run. The Gripen is roughly the same size as an CF-5 has me concern as well.
    The other issue that needs to be talked about is the number of pilot we have. The RCAF has been recruiting RAF pilots due to the lack of pilots we have and the cutbacks they have.

  6. One thing I found while trying to consume the barrage of information was that one spec was being flung against another. The PC vs Mac took on a whole new meaning! I was impressed how well the Gripen faired in the stack. The new "pig" on the block happens to be the Super Hornets. The Eurofighter may just price itself out of the running. The Rafale was a runaway hit.

    The numbers are of course, approximate. Sometimes I used the tried and true, best guess or pulled out the dusty Ouija board. When all things were close to equal, which aircraft faired well and which one seems to be reaching to complete the mission. 300 miles seemed like a good fit. Which aircraft had the extra gas to go further or could carry a bit more to the target? Even though cost per hour were higher with some aircraft, the speed of the mission offset the operational factor. Thats how a brute like the F-22 did so well. Higher operating cost per hour but completed the mission in half the time. Accumulates less airframe time therefore longer time between scheduled maintenance.

    Now I imagine the next phase. 9 aircraft fly from 9 different bases, reach the 300 nm mark and what options do each pilot have in each aircraft. This is where I may evolve this data. Which detects which first? Which has the gas to continue or flee? Which can carry enough weapons to defend itself? Then once the survivors get to WVR and have to pull out the swords, who fairs the best chance of flying home?

    My true point was more to define the F-35 as it seems Canada is leaning hard towards that aircraft. It wasn't that bad, I thought. It still begs the questions, will VLO hold it's edge over time? Will the radar and DAS system perform as expected? The road map indicates a 5% increase in thrust while reducing fuel consumption by 5%. Also, the internal weapons bay be able to hold 6 new generation A/A missiles.

    Buying an airplane that is obviously not ready is not a wise choice. Buying glossed over old technology may win us about 10 years. Waiting to purchase a fighter until we have no choice might be our biggest fail. There is no mathematical win for Canada if the F-35 doesn't prove to be the best jet.


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