How the Five Fighters stack up.
|Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II|
|Saab JAS-39F Gripen|
|Dassault Rafale B|
|F/A-18F Super Hornet|
ALSO NOTE: If there is a discrepancy between this table and another on this site, please consider this one as being correct, as it will be changed whenever new information is discovered.
ALSO: This table was made prior to Saab bowing out pending declaration of full competition. I'm including the Gripen E/F for comparison purposes anyway.
|Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II||Saab Gripen JAS 39E/F||Eurofighter Typhoon||Dassault Rafale||Boeing F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornet|
|Crew||1||1(E), 2(F)||1 or 2(Trainer)||1(C,M), 2(B)||1(E), 2 (F,G)|
|Power||28,000 (43,000 with afterburner)||13,000 (22,000 with afterburner)||26,000 (40,000 with afterburner)||22,500 (34,000 with afterburner)||26,000 (44,000 with afterburner)|
|Thrust-to-weight ratio (with 100% fuel and A2A weapons)||0.87||1.06||1.07||0.99||0.93|
|Max speed (in mach)||1.6||2||2||1.8||1.8|
|Supercruise||No1||1.2 (with 2 WVR and 2 BVR missiles)||1.3 (with 2 WVR and 4 BVR missiles)||1.4 (with 6 WVR/BVR missiles)||No|
|Combat Radius (Air to Air mission)||1,100km (internal fuel only)||1,300km (with centreline 290 gallon tank)||1,389km||1,000+km||1000+km (internal fuel only)|
|Ferry Range (with external tanks)||2,220km (internal fuel only)2||4,000+km||3,790km||3,700+km||3,300km|
|Wing loading (lower = better):||91.4lb/ft2||58lb/ft24||64lb/ft2||62.8lb/ft2||94lb/ft2|
|Rate of climb:||Classified||50,000ft/min4||62,000ft/min||60,000ft/min||44,882ft/min|
|Radar:||AN/APG-81 AESA||Raven AESA||CAPTOR-E AESA (planned)||RBE2-AA AESA||APG-79 AESA|
|Infrared Search and Track:||AAQ-40 EOTS||Selex "Skyward G" IRST||PIRATE IRST, LITENING pod||SAGEM-OSF||IRST mounted in external fuel tank|
|Helmet mounted display System:||HMDS (still in development)||Cobra HMDS||Eurofighter HMSS||TopSight HMD||JHMCS|
|Electronic warfare and countermeasures:||AN/AAQ/37 DAS missile warning system, AN/ASQ-239 Electronic Warfare system, stealth design resulting in decreased radar and infrared signature.||ECM pods, BOL advanced countermeasure dispenser, MAW (missile approach warner), Laser Warning System, towed decoy, internally mounted RF jammers.||ECM pods, flares, IR decoy dispenser, chaff pods, radar warning receiver, MAW, laser warning receiver, towed decoy,||Thales SPECTRA electronic warfare suite||ECM pods, towed decoys, chaff, flares, AN/ALE-165 jammer pod, AN/ALR-67 radar warning reciever|
|Gun:||GAU-22/A 25mm 4-barrelled gatling cannon||27mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon (E model only)||27mm Mauser BK-27 Revolver cannon||30mm GIAT 30/719B autocannon||20mm M61 Vulcan gatling cannon|
|Hardpoints:||4 internal, 6 external||10||13 (4 semi-conformal)||14||11|
|Payload:||18,000lbs (using external pylons)||15,875lbs||16,500lbs||21,000lbs||17,750lbs|
|“X-Factor”:||Stealth, advanced sensors||Can operate from unprepared runways, low operating cost.||Legendary air-to-air performance, twin engine.||Ground strike ability, naval version available, twin engine.||Naval airframe, easy transition, twin engine.|
|Problems:||Troubled development, questionable performance, high operating cost.||Smaller design, less payload.||Troubled history, high operating cost.||Proprietary systems and weapons.||Old design, unremarkable performance.|
1Unofficially, the F-35 can supercruise at mach 1.2 for a distance of 241km.
2External fuel tanks are planned for the F-35, but none have been flight tested yet.
3The F-35 has only been tested to 43,000ft so far.
4Gripen C information, Gripen E data is unavailable
So how do the F-35, Gripen E, Typhoon, Rafale, and Super Hornet compare to each other? As you can see, some of the specifications are quite close, others have very obvious differences. It must be stated, however, that this comparison doesn't look at the complete picture. There are other performance parameters, like instantaneous turn rate, sustained g performance, and acceleration that are just as important, but harder to research.
This information was as accurate and as current as I could find. Some data on the F-35 is still "classified", while other figures are specified, but not yet tested. The Gripen E has a similar issue, but some information is confirmed thanks to the Gripen NG demonstrator aircraft. The Gripen E will have a higher weight than the C model, but has a substantially more powerful engine to compensate.
Some things to note:
- The F-35's wing loading and thrust-to-weight ratios aren't even close to the others.
- The Gripen, Typhoon, and Rafale are quite similar, performance wise.
- The Gripen's small size keeps it from carrying heavier payloads (it carries as much as the current CF-18), but otherwise, its performance is very similar, if not superior, to the others.
- Despite its greater payload capability, the F-35 is limited by its 10 weapon hardpoints, the same as the much smaller Gripen.
- The Rafale's supercruise performance seems... Optimistic.
- The Super Hornet really doesn't improve much on the classic CF-18 Hornet as far as performance goes. It does hold more payload and has a lot more advanced gear though.
- The F-35 does not have a 2 seater variant suitable for training or advanced combat roles (weapons officer, UCAV command, etc).