Friday, August 8, 2014

Fighter Jet Fight Club: Rafale vs. Silent Eagle

Comparing the aircraft in this weeks Fighter Jet Fight Club is a little bit like comparing the cuisine from their respective countries.

French cuisine tends to come across as more sophisticated.  The Rafale shares this trait.  It is a modern looking design that blends together the latest in technology, aerodynamics, and building techniques to construct an aircraft that is not only functional, but often praised for its aesthetic value as well.  Most would agree that the Rafale is indeed a fine looking airplane.  Presentation is quite important in French Haute Cuisine, after all.

By comparison, the F-15SE Silent Eagle is an all-you-can-eat buffet at Golden Corral.  It may not entice the most sophisticated of palates, but there is a little bit of everything there, and you certainly will not walk away hungry.  The F-15SE satisfies your hunger by dishing out generous helpings of whatever you happen to be in the mood for.

Before we take a look at the menus, remember the rules, and don't forget to tip your server.


Interdiction/Penetration:  Hors d'oeuvres are typically served before the meal, in the time between the guests arrive and the main course is served.  These bite-sized morsels are intended to stimulate the appetite while leaving room for the entree.  The Rafale's sophisticated SPECTRA electronic warfare suite uses a combination of systems to evade and disrupt enemy sensors.  

If the Rafale is a fancy hors d'oeuvre, than the F-15SE is basket full of spicy jalapeƱo poppers.  It certainly does not look intimidating, but that is because the excitement is contained inside the plain beige exterior.  By keeping its weapons inside its conformal weapons bays, the F-15SE reduces its RCS considerably.  The Silent Eagle also adds a little bit of sophistication to the mix, as it is also has the option of carrying electronic warfare equipment.

With the option to go fully into "stealth mode", the F-15SE wins this one.  Advantage:  F-15SE

Deep Strike:  A proper meal needs a proper beverage.  Instead of wine, the Rafale brings more than enough jet fuel to the party.  It also brings some rather impressive potent potables such as the SCALP EG ALCM.

If the Rafale brings a carafe full of bordeaux, than the F-15SE brings a Super Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew.  If that was not enough, its conformal fuel tanks act the same as a beer helmet, providing the Silent Eagle with plenty of liquid refreshment.  When it comes time to share, the F-15SE forgoes anything fancy.  Its AGM-158 JASSM ER is the equivalent of a hip flask full of Jack Daniels.  It goes anywhere, and it is sure to get the job done.  

With a longer range and the more potent ALCM, the Silent Eagle belches out a win here.  Advantage:  F-15SE

Payload:  French food is known of being decadently rich.  Lots of butter, sauce, and fat.  The Rafale echoes this.  Despite being a medium-size fighter, it carries a full-size payload. Able to carry 21,000lbs, it easily exceeds that of the similar sized Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35.  

The Silent Eagle represents America however.  It simply will not be outdone when it comes to portion sizes.  This is the country that invented the Supersized Double Bic Mac combo, after all.  The F-15SE is a full-sized fighter, yet even then its payload is a claimed 29,500lbs.  

The Rafale may be a five-course meal, but the F-15SE is an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Advantage:  F-15SE

Close air support:  For the close air support role, the Rafale is as attentive as a French waiter.  Able to fly low over your shoulder, it can help you with your menu selection of precision guided smart bombs.

By contrast, the F-15SE is the attendant at a drive-through window.  Flying high and fast it is more about convenience than personal service.  You will get your food, but it will be delivered at arms length and your server will be far away by the time you get to your meal.  

With its ability to stay closer to the troops, the Rafale wins this one.  Just be sure to tip.  Advantage:  Rafale

Air-to-ground winner:  The F-15SE can fly further, with a heavier bomb load, and it has the option of internal weapon storage to allow it access to well defended areas.  The Rafale is the better close-air-support aircraft, as it is better at flying low and slow.  This is not enough to make up for its disadvantage against the F-15SE, however.  Winner:  F-15SE Silent Eagle.


First look, first kill:  Proper french cuisine takes time and preparation.  Even the kitchen needs to set up in a certain way so that ingredients are accessible in the right order, at the right time.  French cooks call this mise en place.  It is known in English as "a place for everything, and everything in its place".  The Rafale echoes this.  Its various sensors give it a great view of the air space around it.  Its AESA radar is similar in size used by the Super Hornet and F-35.  Not huge, but just the right size.  The Rafale does have an impressive RCS, and its ability to supercruise means it can travel faster while keeping its IR signature down.  

If the Rafale is a well organized kitchen, the Silent Eagle is a big southern barbecue with an industrial sized deep-fat-fryer.  Its AESA radar is about 50% bigger than the Rafale's while presenting a smaller RCS.  Food is cooked fast simply because of high heat and a large grill.  The F-15SE pays a penalty however, as its IR signature is substantially higher than the Rafale's.  This is exacerbated by the Silent Eagle's need to use its afterburner to go supersonic.  

While the Silent Eagle plays a superior radar game, the Rafale has an advantage when it comes to IR. For this reason, I will call the aircraft equal.  Radar does have a longer range than IRST, but it can be jammed or evaded much easier.  Advantage:  Tie

Beyond visual range:  Finally, we get to the entree.  The Rafale has IR or RR guided MICA missiles, as well as the latest in haute cuisine, the MBDA Meteor.  Better still the, Rafale can fly high and fast to give those missiles a little bit of extra energy.  

The F-15SE has a reputation to uphold here.  Its larger radar should give it a clear advantage, but it is let down somewhat by its missiles.  The AIM-120D AMRAAM is a damn good missile.  Possibly the equivalent of a Five Guys double-bacon cheeseburger.  Not fancy, but it uses a two-way datalink to help find its target and a two-stage rocket to make sure it hits.

Its only weakness against the Silent Eagle here is its smaller radar, but that disadvantage becomes moot because it will need to get within the Rafale's sensor range (about 50-100km) in order to fire it.  The Rafale has the better missile (arguably, I know) with the Meteor but it lacks a two-way data link and the sheer size of the F-15SE's radar.  This one is too close to call.  Advantage:  Tie

Within visual range:  The Rafale has a tasty side dish of Mica missiles.  The big question here is whether or not it will be equipped with an HMD.  The Rafale has been tested with the TopSight HMD, but this has not been made operational nor are there any immediate plans.  Previous plans to adopt the Gerfaut HMD were shelved.  For now, the Rafale needs to rely on either its IRST or a data-link lock from another aircraft to fire HOBS missiles.  

The F-15 does have its usual array of familiar AIM-9 Sidewinders.  HMD has been on the F-15 for a while now, and the Silent Eagle will not be any different.  According the Boeing, the Silent Eagle will have an integrated IRST, a step up from the external pod on older models.  

Both aircraft are quite agile, with capable missiles and sensors.  If the Rafale has a HMD, then this is a case of Steak Frites vs Steak and fries.  Advantage:  Tie

Dogfight:  Sometimes you just have to put the knife and fork down and use your hands and teeth.  For this, the Rafale prefers to take bigger bites with it 30mm cannon.  The Silent Eagle takes small, 20mm nibbles by comparison, but it can do so for a lot longer with more ammo.

Rafale may have the slight edge here, being a more modern fly-by-wire design, but the F-15SE is no slouch.  It was designed to be a dogfighter thanks to lessons learned from the Vietnam air war.  It is also a tough dish to chew, with one F-15 making it safely home after losing a wing.

This one is another tie.  What the Silent Eagle lacks in agility, it makes up for in toughness.  Advantage:  Tie

Air-to-air winner:  The F-15SE may be Guy Fieri next to the Rafale's more sophisticated Julia Childs, but both are strong in flavor when it comes to aerial combat.  This one is a draw.  Winner:  Tie


Flexibility:  French cooking relies heavily on different seasoning.  A simple change in spices or sauces can completely change the characteristics of a dish.  The Rafale is no different, billed as an "omnirole fighter" the Rafale's mission can change dramatically simply by changing its weapon load out.  Air superiority fighter, maritime defense, recon, precision strike, even aerial refueling.  The availability of a carrier version adds even more depth.

By contrast, the Silent Eagle is simple salt (air superiority) and pepper (ground attack).  It fulfills these roles extremely well, but those looking for something more should look elsewhere.

KFC sells a lot of poultry, but good luck finding one that sells Foie Gras.  If you are looking for a varied menu of items, it is best to go French.  Advantage:  Rafale

Logistics:  French food is quite exclusive.  Only sparkling wine originating from a certain French province can all itself Champagne, and do not believe anyone trying to sell you a locally sourced Bordeaux.  The Rafale only uses genuine French ingredients, including Snecma engines and Thales radar.  Good luck finding those at your local Loblaws.  Thankfully French cooking is accessible to everyone, with plenty of cookbooks available.  Dassault has offered the same by offering Rafale customers its "cookbook" of intellectual property and technology transfer.  

While McDonalds may not be the epitome of fine dining, there is a pretty good chance you live within a half-hour's drive from one.  The F-15 may not be the McDonalds of jet fighters (that would be the F-16) but it should be considered at least the Burger King.  F-15 customers all over the world have had it there way by ordering regional specific variants like the F-15I (Israel), F-15SG (Singapore) and F-15J (Japan).  American defense contractors are quite tightlipped regarding military technology, however.  The F-15SE's "secret blend of herbs and spices" will likely stay that way to the customer.  Advantage:  Tie

Flexibility/Logistics winner:  The Rafale performs a lot more roles and requires less fuel and runway to operate.  The F-15SE has a more accessible parts chain.  The Rafale ultimately wins this one, however, as Dassault's willingness to "open source" the Rafale gives it a slight edge here.  Winner:  Rafale

Final Score:

Air-to-ground:  Rafale=1  -  Silent Eagle=3
Air-to-air:  Rafale=4  -  Silent Eagle=4
Flexibility/Logistics:  Rafale=2  -  Silent Eagle=1

Final Result:  Rafale=7  -  Silent Eagle=8

The sophisticated Rafale may be more refined, but the Eagle offers a healthier portion smothered with cheese and bacon.  Both aircraft are excellent at what they do, but the F-15SE comes out by concentrating on the basics.  Foie Gras and sweetbreads may not be to everyone's tastes, but just about everyone can enjoy some BBQ ribs with a side of corn on the cob...  Unless you are a vegetarian.

Had your fill?  Got a bone to pick?  Want to chew me out?  Fill out the comment card below.

[NOTE:  Please keep your comments related to the F-15SE or Rafale.  Repeated mentions of other fighters will be deleted.  All of you Gripen and Super Hornet fans should have it out of your system after last week!]


  1. Doug, you got to stop sampling the laughing gas in the back of the ambulance. You managed to slip in Haute Cuisine, Bordeaux, beer helmet and Golden Corral in one article! Belch!

  2. They say North American are over weight and that American style fast food is affecting the health of other nations with the entry of fast food into there culture. It is true that Canada wants to go to the buffet, but not an all you can eat buffet. Canada is not a superpower and it is not our style to push our high grease menu on other with a super sized fighter, we are more try it and you will like it in the Rafale. This medium size fighter almost has the same range and payload and can manoeuvre swiftly with its super cruise without passing as much gas. Remember Canada is understated, until you piss us off, rather then loud and pushy. The Rafale is on Omni-fighter that does a lot of things very well and Canada can make it better.

  3. He is good isn't he. I almost thought that Doug forgot it was Friday.

  4. Even the strike variant wins this one.
    Quite surprised its not a decisive win.

  5. Nice! But don't believe all you see on TV or on the Internet : French also love big and fat when it comes to eat (after all foie gras isn't the lightest kind of menu!).

    Once again, my only doubt is about JASSM-ER (Before, that was for the Super Hornet...) : to my knowledge, JASSM-ER isn't integrated, nor planned to be integrated on the F-15.

  6. "The AGM-158 JASSM is currently integrated on B-2A Spirit stealth bombers, and on B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortress bombers. On the fighter front, its platforms include the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Falcon (Block 50), and the Royal Australian Air Force’s upgraded F/A-18 Hornets. The US military intends to add the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet family to this list, and to extend F-16 compatibility to earlier Block 40 models. JASSM will also be carried by the F-35, eventually, but it’s no longer on the list of weapons for certification by the end of the development program. If and when it’s certified for the F-35 family after 2018, it will have to be carried externally, because it’s too large for the internal weapon bays."

  7. Yeah, I know, your link states it pretty accurately : "The USAF says that AGM-158B
    JASSM-ER will eventually be integrated with as very similar plane set:
    B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16
    Falcon (Block 25+), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and F-35A-C Lightning II.
    Under current USAF plans, however, the B-1 Lancer will be the only plane
    certified with the new missile for a few years."

    So, regarding your rules, the question is : will it be integrated before 2020?

  8. Good to see you having a bit of fun while writing. I don't agree with the evaluation though. The Rafale would easily defeat the big heavy Eagle WVR and in dogfight. Rafale manoeuvres much better with superior gun. It will always turn inside the Eagle (just like the Gripen would vs Eagle).

    BVR I also think the Rafale is stronger. Another hole Doug leaves in his evaluations is Radar warning receivers and related systems. If Eagle locks on to the Rafale using radar, Spectra will tell you where the Eagle is located. One could say that the Rafale is the most modern of all current fighters in this regard - it is fully understood that radar and any other active emitters will be a thing of the past. Using a radar is like standing in a dark room with a flashlight. Everyone with their lights off will see you very clearly before you see them. The Eagle has a particularly bright flashlight easy for all EWS to see.

    NEXT Part 2 #Gripen. The power of passive sensors in modern Aerial Combat - Part 1 #Rafale— Vianney Riller Jr (@jrvianney) August 7, 2014

  9. Great find, good attachment article.

  10. Doug , you didn't mention the Rafale's AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) , one of the most important feature with SPECTRA inside this plane.
    Flying at 100 foot and at 500 knots fully automatically (even without hands) with SPECTRA giving tactical awareness for quick decision is a huge advantage to the Rafale for deep strike missions.

  11. Regarding the rules ... best fighter for "Canada", I checked ... and I think the JASSM-ER is a red herring because Canada will most likely never procure a weapon at 1.5 million a pop. I am not sure if Tomahawks were prohibited to us or we did not want them or both. We never even procured SLAMs. Got rid of Harpoons for subs. ....
    Also, those the LANTIRN pod on the F-15 allow for automatic "hands off" flying?

  12. Sorry but I don't agree with you. In the corean and singaporian contests , the Rafale was downselcted as one of the two finalists with the F15 SE. The final choice was strictly political.
    Like in the Japan's contest , Dassault described the the Rafale role as a "stalking horse". Technicaly first (or with better potential) but never picked.

  13. Politics plays a major role in "all" of these acquisitions.
    What I find interesting, is that years ago, I too wanted to be part of the invisible plane club, but it has been years now that people, knowledgeable people (not me), have been saying the F-35 is going to be a big problem... and they were right!
    Yet, government, after government, are really reluctant to go a different path. I scoped the internet and found an average cost of a F-35A to be 150-170 million a plane. That is a crap load of money, tax payers money.
    You would think a Rafale at 100 million is a 35% to 45 % savings from the F-35 for a "really" good machine. To some degree this also applies to the SE. Something is not right in Denmark!

  14. The F-15SE has its own ECM which I believe is pretty high as was the ECM on the previous eagle, The F-15C.

  15. At this point there are no takers for Silent Eagle, however the current 84 Saudi Advanced models to be built and delivered to Saudi are a good reference point for where the modern Eagle is evolving.
    The Saudi Advanced model is "real" aircraft that can be considered by Canada. many of the improvements place the SA model in a position such that it can be upgraded as required. Having a digital fly by wire control system is a significant improvement to the F-15, making the control surfaces more responsive as well as reducing weight as and maintenance on the aircraft. DEWS is also an available system.
    In regards to the canted tails, it may be debatable as to how much value they actually provide as the F-15SE proposal for reduced RCS is primarily from a frontal aspect. A 15 degree will assist is reducing some of the side reflection but that may be minimal is reality based on actual use. A large benefit is the reduction in weight ballast as the canted tails create extra lift.
    The conformal weapons bays are a Boeing/Korean thing, but this is also something Canadian aerospace companies can take on also. There have been comments about CWB without doors where the weapons are "tucked" in for reduced drag and RCS. So there are many possibilities here especially since the CWBs which are based on the fast pack forms can be fairly straight forward to innovate on.
    The APG-63(3) is currently offered on the SA model. An RCAF fighter would likely be cleared to use an APG-82 or better radar.
    The SA model currently has a number of discrete LCD screens for various functions and JHMCS for the pilots. The advanced cockpit proposed for the SE is likely similar to the the one proposed for the ASH F-18, so there is not much risk in whether Boeing can really deliver.
    One problem with the F-15 for Canada is its boom tanker requirement. This is another "project" Canadian aerospace firms can take on. In fact there has been talk that the Israelis have worked on probe and drogue upgrades so that their F-15s can buddy tank as regular tankers are more exposed.
    Canadian aero firms currently and have provided a number of components to the F-15 for years, so there is an ecosystem there.
    The bottom line is Canada can simply go with a Saudi Advanced model + a few easy upgrades and the rest can happen as the plane is evolved. The great thing about an F-15 is that it's "depot aircraft"which means it will last a long time. The irony I find that we always hear about how expensive an Eagle is, and they are not cheap. But expensive compared to what? an F-35? That's the farce in this debate. The F-35A is running $150-170M? and many challenge the validity of those numbers. With the F-15 you get a large ecosystem, a plane flown by a number of the world's best air-forces. A plane that has the legs to travel long distances in a vast country, a plane that has serious speed to intercept, a plane that can be configured to carry a massive amount of ordnance.
    The RCAF would never have all F-15 fleet, but maybe 24? (some small number) mixed with a larger force of (Lo) aircraft still makes a lot of sense.

  16. Well the top of your article isn't exactly correct... Its not really the food that affects people its the amount of food that affects the people. Americans are fat because they eat too much but I digress an all out can eat buffet isn't exactly the right choice for a country like Canada. Sure we wouldn't mind it but it would be healther to go with the Rafale for this one. Still it wouldn't be bad to go to both restaurants the tough F-15SE can be a good interceptor and a good dogfighter as doug says it makes up for its fairly decent agility with its toughness and the Rafale would be great as a long distance strike fighter or when the F-15 isn't available an interceptor or air supremacy fighter. Either way both can kick ass and take names!

  17. The funny thing is even if we have all our views on the issue : witch of these planes is the "BestFirghter4Canada" , we have most probably the same view on the issue witch of these planes is the "WorstFighter4Canada" :-)

  18. It's for sure. But the F-15SE has no other alternative.
    Flying at 100 feet give Rafale the benefit of the ground's radar clutter and it's fully automatic at very high speed even over rolling hills. Operate that way , during a night raid, without this kind of system would be suicide.

  19. ALCMs are expensive, that's not only for the JASSM. It's all about strategy and military structure. Long story short, for the same mission, especially in the case of a deep strike, you can use either a sophisticated platform with simple weapons (for example a stealth and long-range aircraft with GPS-guided bombs) or a simple platform with sophisticated weapons (such as a so-called "fourth generation fighter" with air-launched cruise missiles).

    The choice depends on the number of targets you intend to strike : if it's low, it's cheaper to buy some ALCMs and get an air force of affordable aircrafts. If it's very high, it could be more interesting to get sophisticated aircrafts and a big load of cheap bombs.

    ALCMs aren't so popular : USA, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Spain (a few dozens...), South Korea, Russia, China (most likely) are the main users of such weapons.

  20. That's true, but going low would severely reduce the range, which is not a desirable behavior for a deep strike mission.

  21. I found the food gimmick became annoying very quickly. :p Also, I know the rule about everything working as advertised, but the conclusion still could have used a reminder that the Silent Eagle does not actually exists and its specs are speculated, while the Rafale is a fully operational plane that has seen real combat.

  22. Hey, one thing to keep in mind: $150 million a plane? That's *without* the engine and avionics. Real cost is much higher, but LockMart's PR is doing all it can to cheat with the numbers. Actual cost of an F-35C is over $300 million.

    On the other hand, the Rafale cost you can see on Wikipedia is overestimated by 20% because it includes VAT. And VAT is not paid on exports.

  23. Here for detailed cost analysis of F-35 in 2014:

  24. Fair enough, but the Rafale is tough too. Both would be fine except for if Canada does not get its butt in gear both the F18 and F15 will stop production and we will not have to worry about it. Which I think is someone the governments game plus the RCAF is not even looking at the F15.

  25. We have had plenty of chances to get some and we passed. There are bunch of nations that thought this aircraft worth the money ... not Canada.

  26. Really interesting article. Makes me appreciate it more. But your the Canadian PM, what do you choose?

  27. I knew that, but Canada has repeatedly avoided these kinds of weapons. We are a little weird in the defence department. We are changing but as I see the weapons being named off to justify particular aircraft and then add the word " Canada " ... In this case, the fact that the Rafale can super cruise for arctic intercepts, is an excellent attack platform and can be built in Canada, is plenty on its own. I do not think Canada will deviate much from smart bombs in a policing environment, at least in an air force scenerio. I do not see an advantage in selecting the F-15 .

  28. Without a self-combusting engine... go figure!

  29. There is a reason we all have our opinions. All the aircraft are pretty good machines. Some deals might be better (ie domestic production) but in the end, I would happy with 3 of the mentioned because they make some sense to me in my Canadian context. I really think people are starting to say "wait a second here!" because of social media.

  30. You know Paul, you are so correct. That is what I find the most frustrating. If it was about "my safety" maybe some time to reflect, but this is total face saving bullshit, a universal human trait.

  31. You know they did this to the B-52. I guess that is why theses 2 can hold a lot of fuel and/or drop tanks.

  32. You got me thinking!
    On the government list there are two European and two America. The Gripen discided not to play and the F15 was not on the list. More then likely there taking nothing from Europe, the leaves the two American aircraft. One of them will be out of production soon, unless Canada makes a discussion. So all Canada has to do is say who is left ---- the F35 will be the only one standing. I guess we have to choose it.

    Go Rafale!

  33. No indication yet whether the Canadian government or that special panel has looked at the F-15 as a competitive choice. Even if the Rafale is a wicked knifefighter, get a fair number (about 60) of big, intimidating, long-legged, faster and superbly equipped aircraft that has a combat record. With well-trained pilots, even the old F-15C can challenge the F-22.
    If Canada gets the F-15E or F-15SE, equipping it to challenge intruding stealth aircraft should be part of defending our sovereignty. Conformal fuel tanks, built-in long-range IRST, HMD, integrated combat information systems, full capability APG-82 radar, F110-132 engines (65,000 Ibs. of total thrust), and extensive ECM suite. The APG-82 is far less maintenance intensive than its predecessors, the APG-63. The aerodynamics of this supposed Canadian variant of the Eagle needs much tweaking, as I would hate to get in a turning fight with anything smaller, like the Rafale or the Viper. Canadian Eagle pilots should really train extensively air-to-air with their F-15C counterparts. We are the outnumbered underdog here, potentially facing Su-30's, Su-35's and T-50's, so can you chase them with the Rafale?

    The F-15 is proven one tough bird: what else gives you a fair chance at limping home after taking a direct hit from something like a Sidewinder missile, or getting airframe chunks lopped off after running into another objects in the sky? Can the Rafale do that?

  34. A rather strange post with a nice illustration of the Gripen and its implementation of The Silent Battlefield, EW and IRST when Rafale is the one who is praised.

  35. You are right, the deep strike isn't a really relevant mission for RCAF. In France, this kind of capability is rather new. Most of the time, smart bombs are enough! In addition, cruise missiles also send a political message and are sometimes considered "pre-strategic" weapons, because of their range. Some countries don't want to carry this weight.

    Anyway, the fact that Rafale is as capable as an (upgraded and not even existing) F-15 at half the weight is enough for me : FJFC isn't about price, but there is no doubt about the outcome in this regard.

  36. B-52 at 100 feet / 500 knots?
    Well, you're talking about a FREAKING STRATEGIC BOMBER lol!
    That's not the same kind of range. Even at low altitude, B-52 has enough range to fly deep in the territory of any country.

  37. The Rafale can chase stuff down faster than the Eagle because of much faster cruise speed. All the Eurocanards are built from high tech composites so they are very very tough. The Rafale should offer similar body lift to the Eagle so it could probably take quite a bit of battle damage.

  38. I can't see why its strange. Rafale has been flying with the 'Silent Battlefield' concept for a long time. It's not until now, with Gripen E, that Saab has caught up. Gripen probably has better data links, but Spectra is a fantastic system. The automatic terrain following flight mode of the Rafale is also impressive.

    One could even say that the Rafale was conceptualised as more of a "network fighter" from the start since radar was never a priority (look at the small nose cone). The french aircraft has a smaller radar than Gripen. On the other hand it has IRST, which Gripen A and C lacks.

    Its interesting to see USA so focused on X-band radar with the F22, F35 and Silent Eagle, where Europe instead elects to develop strategies to fly silent in a networked environment using IRST and EW.

    What's the point of radar LO if your enemy doesn't even bother to turn on his radar?

  39. I shit you not. More like 200 feet and 400 knots. When they realized that flying high was a bad thing for something so big, they reinforced the frame and wings, they reduced the tail size, added jamming, and practiced low level flying in order to penetrate enemy territory. You tube has videos of this, and in one case, one crew makes a steep turn during a demo, and plants the bomber into the ground. Not pretty!

  40. Yes, we've had chances and have passed. The real question is should we be passing going forward? The world of the future may be very different than the past.
    The rationale in the past has been that the Eagle is expensive, but again, expensive in what context? The F-35A makes the F-15SE or SA look like a cheap night out. As is true for all the other contenders in this contest.

    I've seen many, "the RCAF doesn't do deep strike" comments on this blog. The last real deep strikes we did were probably WW2. But again the question what might we do going forward. This is where much of the problem lies.
    Every aircraft, I've seen in this comparison is a fine aircraft for it's purpose.

  41. The F-15 is one tough bird. It's also a long lasting bird, something forgotten in many debates. It's airframe was designed to last a long time.
    When going up against Sukhois or even a T-50, the F-15 has to be seriously considered, and Sukhoi proliferation is the biggest threat.
    The latest F-15 variant is not your grandfather's F-15 (aka Oldsmobile commercial). I suspect maintenance would be much less than the older models with the new features such as APG-82 radar and FBW flight control. Even the 129/132 engines should be lower in maintenance than the engines on a 15 Charlie. What I'd like to see talked about is the proposed maintenance cost for an SE or SA model. Not the cost for a 20 year old C model or 15 year old E model.
    yes, with close in turning fights even the latest F-15 would be in tough against a Euro canard. However, those Euro Canards are in tough also and have to make it to the merge just to get into a turning fight. But again the Euro canard is not the threat. The threat is Russian or Chinese aircraft.

  42. I assume this is what you will get and it is very stealthy or..?

  43. Still the best beat down on an F-35.

    "It's invisible,...want to have a battle?,, it broke". - LOLO

  44. Silent Eagle does not exist and may never exist? Rafale proven in combat. Winner = Rafale. For Canada we want just one Aircraft. So in reality an Omni role fighter is ideal for us.

  45. Look at this! There are more. You might have to copy and paste.

  46. Do not get me wrong Canuck, I am totally with you. I just wish I understood these suits. I have family who were and are in big positions of responsibility and let tell you when they think they are right it is very hard for them to change perspective to the point that I learned to walk away. "Tunnel vision"

  47. OMG! Too funny and then some. There is a lot of truth to that.

  48. You might laugh at me for this one but the F-15 looks better with vertical tails. Looks like it needs a little viagra to get things straight up again. I know, I know bad blogger. The Rafale is a mean machine.

  49. It's all good Serge.
    It's sad that the suits, politicos, etc, do not pursue the all options going forward with a proper analytical, critical thinking fact based process. It's like they are "too proud" to say they may a mistake and would rather all us pay for it, while they maintain their ego.

  50. I do not think (I hope) the other options will go away soon. I hope I am still alive to see it. I do not have a crystal ball, but I suspect in five years, the issues might be semi-solved, we will let Australia, and Japan take first deliveries while we get "temporary " fighters that will turn out to be not so temporary.

  51. Hmmm..??

    " Rafale has been flying with the 'Silent Battlefield' concept for a long
    time. It's not until now, with Gripen E, that Saab has caught up."

    What kind of BS are you dreaming up now??..

    "One could even say that the Rafale was conceptualised as more of a
    "network fighter" from the start since radar was never a priority (look
    at the small nose cone). The french aircraft has a smaller radar than
    Gripen. On the other hand it has IRST, which Gripen A and C lacks."

    Claiming that the less networked Fighter is more networked doesn't really make any sense, does it?..

    If you take a look at the development history of Gripen & Rafale respectively, it's pretty obvious that they've focused on different, but similar, paths, where Gripen's been focused on networking, & different applications of the benefits of it, while Rafale has been focusing on alternative sensors & jammers on the individual airframes. Gripen not getting an IRST until it's E iteration is just a result of budget priorities, somewhat related ofcourse to Gripen's datalink-superiority.

    In short, Rafale's are more focusing on the capabilities of the individual plane, while Gripen's have been focusing more on teamwork/packhunting. & I'd say that's a difference that actually goes deep into the fundamental design of the respective airframes.

    By that I do not mean to say that Rafale is a bad plane. Gripen & Rafale are very similar, but with somewhat different focus..

  52. According to Wikipedia the Meteor missile is network-enabled so mid-course updates is possible via datalink but it seems that is only valid for Gripen and Eurofighter and not for Rafale as its datalink is only a one way datalink.

    I assume that Saab's updates of Thailands Navy and Airforce with sharing data between Gripen, Erieye and the Navy's combat system can be classified as a silent system already today.

  53. This food-thing could be a bigger issue than asked for, if looking into the food connection with the food industry responsible for the zunami increase in obesity and diabetes. On top of this there is the medical industry fixing drugs that is not needed if people eat according the guerrilla war on the internet against the mention industries backed with FDA different heart associations and diabetes associations even if there is maybe some light in the tunnel. But maybe Doug ordinary work, emergency medicine, comes in here? I should probably not put in the "guerrilla-solution" in the thread as it can start a debate of its own, but for those that are not familiar with the solution I will mention it but if someone start a debate I will not answer and if someone want more information I refer to the internet. Okey what is it then, sugar kills so skip the carbs and eat fat :)

  54. Don't worry Serge, I believe you. Thanks for the vid!

  55. Yeah, Rafale will use only one way of the Meteor datalink. From what I read, it's because of MICA missile "legacy", which comes with a one way datalink (aircraft-to-missile).
    Still, mid-course updates are possible through the aircraft-to-missile datalink.
    All the noise around the one-way-datalink for Rafale Meteor vs the two-ways-datalink for Gripen and Eurofighter Meteor seems a bit exaggerated.

  56. Rafale is the "less networked fighter"? What does it lack, exactly? A SATCOM capability? For what purpose? Which fighter has it?

    I read several times the claims of Gripen's edge when it comes to datalink but never got a chance to understand clearly why. Could you explain it to me? What is the kind of capabilities involved behind these claims?

  57. Canted twin tails on a Canadian F-15SE (or other F-15 variant) should be installed primarily for aerodynamic advantage in a dogfight. More pitch control is created by the fbw system deflecting both the rudders inboard. This, added to the conventional deflection of the horizontal stabilizer will help the aircraft carve a tighter minimum radius turn. Of course, the canted tails are also meant to decrease the radar cross section. Looking at the Rafale turn and loop does give me chills, it is absolutely menacing in a dogfight. The question is can it get to the fight with its fuel fraction, and can the Rafale's size, looks, weapon load and reputation act as a deterrent to an intruder? Perhaps. Give a canted-tail Canadian Eagle a dark, ominous paint job, hang mostly AMRAAM-D's on it and send six of them out to meet the Bear.

  58. There is an article in the New Indian Express about the Rafale and its costs. The author comes up with 238 million per Rafale while quoting the UK's F-35 190 million. Is it me or this guy is mixing apples and oranges, including rights for Rafale, the F-35 minus an engine ...

  59. I also read somewhere that the canted twin tails would remove approx 700lbs of ballast from the forward section of the plane. Not sure if that's true, but if it is, would add to the plane's performance along with FBW system.

  60. The Meteor indeed has better integration on the Gripen. Gripens sensor sharing is second to none.

  61. I think the two-way link is rather meaningful in a jammed environment where you might want as much tracking data you can get.

  62. To begin with I would like to remind you that this thread is not about Gripen. See Doug's guidelines for discussion above. I only used the Gripen illustration because it was a good image of using IRST and links. I could have used the F35 as an example of the same concept.

    Is it not clear to you how the Rafale is built to be silent? It is almost as if they could have left the radar out in the first place since its clearly not a priority in the design. I would speculate that the Rafale is best in a larger air force, like the French, where it has constant AWACS support to give it radar picture over link. Gripen might have the superior network capabilities but has not had IRST and its EW has not been as good as SPECTRA. It is fine for you to disagree but then I would like you to substantiate your argument rather than accuse me of BS. Either you have IRST or you don't.

    Gripen C utilises 'silent tactics' using its superior TIDLS link meaning that one fighter in the formation passes on its radar picture to the other three which are flying silent. But there is still a reliance on active emitter rather than the whole formation flying silent.

    This is completely logical since Gripen was developed for a smaller airforce where AWACS is not available so one of the planes need to be able to support the rest of the group with a good picture.

  63. This is a good opportunity for me to ask you about the links of the Rafale (since this is an area Doug consequently leaves out). I understand the Rafale flies with link 16 but does it have anything beyond that?

    Gripen E has SATCOM capability yes. It also arguably has the best data link there is.

    The Gripen is fitted with the "Tactical Information Datalink System (TIDLS)", which gives the fighter four high-bandwidth, two-way datalinks with a range of about 500 kilometers and very high resistance to jamming. The datalinks allow the Gripen to engage in combat using another aircraft's sensors or from targeting data provided by other defense systems. Data acquired from remote sources is fused and displayed on the fighter's main MFD. The link is fully operational when the aircraft is on the ground, allowing a pilot on standby to have high situational awareness of the battle environment.

    "One Gripen can provide radar sensing for four of its colleagues, allowing a single fighter to track a target, while the others use the data for a stealthy attack. TIDLS also permits multiple fighters to quickly and accurately lock onto a target's track through triangulation from several radars; or allows one fighter to jam a target while another tracks it; or allows multiple fighters to use different radar frequencies collaboratively to "burn through" jamming transmissions.

    TIDLS also gives the Gripen transparent access to the SAAB-Ericsson 340B Erieye "mini-AWACs" aircraft, as well as the overall ground command and control system. This system provides Sweden with an impressive defensive capability at a cost that, though still high, is less than that of comparable systems elsewhere."

    The Gripen fans above misunderstand my posts. My aim here is not really to compare the Rafale with the Gripen. My aim is to understand the Rafale. When I look at it I see a fighter which was designed with passive sensors and data sharing in mind.

    The reason Gripen has to have its own powerful radar is because it needs to operate in a small country without AWACS. Gripen is more of a "guerrilla fighter" so it needs to be completely self sufficient when it comes out of the woods.

    The Rafale is more optimal in a larger air force where good infrastructure and AWACS can back up its great capabilities.

    The Silent Eagle is not nearly as advanced in concept. Here we have a very old airframe which originally isn't fly-by-wire and does not have unstable design with a pinch of x-band stealth taped on to it meaning its perhaps on the same level as the Rafale from the front but will be much more visible from all other angles.

  64. Ok, if I'm understanding well, you mean that the missile could provide some data as soon as its own seeker is on. But... when the seeker is on, mid-course updates are over, the missile is autonomous. Am I wrong?

  65. I don't know missile technology well enough to be honest but the two-way link should mean that the missile can correlate its own targeting data with that of the launch platform. Since the seeker will engage in the final phase I am thinking that this data can be valuable for the launch platform as the missile will be in close range. It becomes a sort of mini-drone.

    The two way link will of course also mean that the pilot can keep track of the missiles status, its manoeuvres, energy, fuel and so on. This information is important to know when and if follow up missiles should be fired.

  66. ok. All this is very interesting. To be honest, I haven't so much information about Rafale.

    From what I know, Rafale has three main datalinks : Link 16, rafale-rafale datalink and air-ground ROVER link.

    Thales isn't very vocal about these capabilities but it states on the website that :

    "Thales and Communication, Navigation, Identification (CNI)
    CNI suite
    Thales provides the full Communication, Navigation, Identification (CNI) suite – including voice communications, Tactical Data Link, landing and radio navigation systems and Identification Friend and Foe functions - onboard the Rafale. The digital radio transceivers allow the Rafale to manage plain voice, secure voice, data link and image transmission modes for Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface communications in VHF and UHF bands.

    Tactical Data Link
    Thales has developed a complete range of Tactical Data Link (TDL) solutions. Onboard the Rafale, these solutions offer a secure source of tactical data, including situation awareness, command & control, electronic warfare, orders and reports, flight pass and fighter-to-fighter
    information. Among other key players in combined air operations, this
    data is used with fellow aircraft in the formation, airborne and surface
    command and control centres, forward air controllers, etc."

    Not crystal clear... but I have read that a Rafale has some "silent strategies". For example, a Rafale is able to act as a "sensor", providing targeting information (from IRST, radar, EW, etc.) to another Rafale acting as a "shooter".
    So Rafale are able to share their tactical situation.
    It works with another platforms : an Atlantique 2 (naval warfare aircraft) can provide targeting data to a silent and low-flying Rafale to launch an Exocet anti-ship missile.

    Capability to share IRST and/or targeting pod image remains unclear : it's probably true for the ROVER air-ground link, but I don't know if a Rafale can share image data with one another.

    Triangulation of missile lock or other targeting data isn't implemented IMHO. But I know there are ongoing work to add in longer term a capability to combine EW and IRST data on several platforms through link 16 to enhance localisation precision.

    I hope I answer (though partially) your questions.

    Gripen linking capabilities are impressive, especially the range of the TIDLS and the access to Erieye.

  67. You're probably right.
    Without any "inside view", I don't think we'll know much more than that.

  68. Okay this is maybe out of scope for this thread but as the data links has been discussed maybe some more information can be included. In the document (in Swedish) a lot of information about the data links can be found for instance it is stated that the tactical data links are Fully automatic encrypted and jam-protected data link in real time exchange information through SECO 5/16 Enhanced. (SECO = Secure ECCM Communication System)

    So if understod SECO 5/16 Enhanced is used. The document also indicate the ease of adding customer links, South Africa has its LinkZA and Thailand gets the new GADLS to integreate its Gripen, Erieye and Navy.

    An older dokument in English has a nice picture on how it works

  69. You know, I once heard the expression, a fair fight is the worst kind of fight. This is why I prefer a link communication system from the single engine unmentionable plane. We should never be in a one on one situation. As for the maintenance cost, I am also curious but avoided talking money. I drive a Mazda 3 and it got me thinking was is the fuel consumption of the SE because it does not super cruise but goes like a bat out of hell, compared to the Rafale.

  70. Ignore my vertical tail thread. It was strictly esthetic and plain old dumb. :-)

  71. Interesting document. But emission is always emission, encrypted or not. Again, what is being discussed is the Rafale vs Silent Eagle and the purpose of my initial post was to link to a Brazilian fighter pilot who discusses strategies with the latest European fighters, especially the concept of 'Silent Battlefield'.

    Discussion will become tiresome if Super Hornet fans will always try and promote their plane and Gripen fans will always promote theirs in every single thread.
    Rather than succumb to 'brand loyalty' take a look at the comments from the Brazilian pilot again. In the article he is talking about the great capabilities of SPECTRA and in the tweet he links to the networked structure of the Gripen. He is talking about systems and strategy, not "my plane is better than your plane".

  72. I lack your knowledge but this philosophy / thinking is what I was referring to when I said a fair fight is a bad one. Canada can never fight fair because we lack the numbers. We have to choose weapons that are force multipliers.

  73. Thank you. It seems the Rafale does indeed have some link capabilities but doesn't seem as tightly integrated as TIDLS.

    Sharing targeting data is vital for "silent attack". Swedish airforce pioneered these tactics on the Viggen in the late 80's when it was the first airforce to fly with formation where the leader and wingman flies several miles apart. One plane will provide targeting info for all others. These others will come from other directions and will fly completely silent without any emissions. Its not until the F22 datalink that there was anything else comparable in the world (note that the F22 datalink is not compatible with any other fighter).

    The link enables "radarsamverkan" - radar cooperation, where one plane scans, two planes are dedicated jammers while the fourth is a passive, silent shooter situated at closer distance. The radars of the four planes are so tightly connected that in practice they form one "super radar".

    You know what they called the Gripens at Red Flag right?

  74. Yes now we are waiting for Doug to compare data links with different sensors noisy and silent and the big one about the number of engines one or two.

  75. Gripen is catching up to the Rafale and its great IRST and EW systems (SPECTRA) with the E model. It is likely that Rafale is doing the same in the network area.

  76. Yes. My guess why he are leaving them out is because they are all highly classified. What we know about the Gripen link is information about the old Gripen datalink which has been operational since Gripen A. We know nothing about the link which will be in Gripen E so a comparison will be impossible.

  77. Nowdays I think it is all more or less manufactured in China even if design in US, but US is like it is.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.