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Comparison of 2000s fighter aircraft

This page attempts to compare the combat performance of fighter aircraft of the 2000s.

Specifically, it compares their capabilities as air superiority fighters, that is, fighting other fighter aircraft, which is generally a harder task than shooting down aircraft which are not fighters.

Table of contents
1 Aircraft included
2 What makes a good fighter?
3 DERA study
4 Combat performance
5 Further reading

Aircraft included

For conciseness, this page will consider only fighter aircraft in manufacture in 2000 and those that are planned to be manufactured later in the decade. Older aircraft are likely to be less capable than the aircraft in this survey. The aircraft included are:

What makes a good fighter?


Talk here about maneouvrability, acceleration, performance.

Table of thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading

Rafale F21.04 320
Typhoon 1.18 311
F-2 0.89 430
MiG-29SM 1.13 411
Gripen 0.94 341
F/A-22 1.27 320 max takeoff wt; thrust vectoring
F-35A 0.83 446 thrust vectoring


Avionics and weapons

Mention avionics. Abilities of radar. Various weapon systems: missiles - infra red - radar (semiactive v. active) - long and short range weapons - fire and forget


''Stealth. How distance at which a plane can be detected related to radar cross section (IIRC detection range is proportional to (radar cross section)^0.25 )''


It is a truism that "amateurs talk about tactics, dilletants talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics". The best fighter in the world is useless unless it is available where it is wanted, when it is wanted.

Cost and Availability

The more an aircraft costs to buy, the less units of it can be afforded. Another aspect of availability is that some exporting nations limit who they will sell aircraft to for political motives. Generally, the USA tends to be the most fussy about who it will sell to, and Russia and China the least fussy. Information about aircraft costs is hard to get hold of. Because of inflation, one must also include the year that a cost refers to; figures are in USD unless otherwise specified.

Range and runways

int fuel
ext fuel

Rafale F2 ? 1850 ? 400, 300
Typhoon ? 1389 3706 ?, ?
F-2 ? 834 ? ?, ?
Gripen ? 834 ? 400,500 usually operates from stretches of road
F/A-22 ? ? ? ?, ?
F-35A 1000? ? ? ?, ?
F-35B 1000? ? ? ?, 0 STOVL
F-35C 1000? ? ? carrier



How many hours of servicing does the aircraft require per hour of flight?

DERA study

Britain's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (now split into QinetiQ and DSTL) did an operational evaluation comparing the Typhoon with some other modern fighters in how well they performed against an expected adversary aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-35.

The study used real pilots flying the JOUST system of networked simulators. Various western aircraft were put in simulated combat against the Su-35. The results were:

F/A-22 Raptor     10.1 : 1
Typhoon            4.5 : 1
Rafale             1.0 : 1
Su-35              1.0 : 1
F-15C              0.8 : 1
F/A-18+            0.4 : 1
F/A-18C            0.3 : 1
F-16C              0.3 : 1

These results mean, for example, that in simulated combat, 4.5 Su-35s were shot down for every Typhoon lost.

The "F/A-18+" in the study was apparently not the current F/A-18E/F, but an improved version. All the western aircraft in the simulation were using the AMRAAM missile, except the Rafale which was using the MICA missile.

One must bear in mind that the full details of the simulation haven't been released, making it hard to verify whether it gives an accurate evaluation of the capabilities of these aircraft (for instance, whether they had adequate knowledge of the Sukhoi and Raptor to realistically simulate their combat performance).

Combat performance

Evaluations based on qualitative and quantitative comparisons between the aircraft are all very well, but actual combat results are what matters. A list of all combats involving these aircraft:

Further reading