The European fighter jet market is witnessing fierce competition between three leading aircraft brands – Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen.
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In January of this year, Greece was the first European country to purchase Rafale jets from French space giant Dassault Aviation. The â‚¬ 2.5 billion contract to procure 18 Rafales (12 of them second-hand) was an attempt by Athens to strengthen its air power amid simmering regional tensions with Turkey.
The procurement of six more jets by Greece was announced by the French Defense Minister on September 12, bringing the number of Rafale jets in the Hellenic Air Force to 24.
In May of this year, Croatia became only the second European nation to order Rafale fighters and opted for a fleet of 12 used aircraft.
Qatar, Egypt, and India remain key customers of the Rafale platform. However, despite its tumultuous success in the Middle East and the Asian military aviation market, Rafale’s counterpart, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the JAS Gripen, appear to be in the spotlight of potential customers from the European Union.
The Dassault Rafale is a twin-engine, multi-mission capable fighter aircraft developed for the French Air Force and Navy. The aircraft is designed for short and long range missions that include ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, precision attacks including nuclear deterrence.
Rafales is a battle-tested platform that has proven itself in the wars in Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Development of the aircraft began in July 1986 and completed its maiden flight in the same month.
The Rafale is equipped in such a way that it can carry a selection of ammunition, depending on the mission profile. The Rafale can carry a deadly weapons payload that can include MICA, Meteor, Hammer, SCALP, AM39, and EXOCET.
The French planes can use laser-guided bombs [with a selection of warheads], classic unguided bombs, the 2500 rounds / min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm inner cannon and are supplied with customer-specific armament modifications.
Rafale’s operational flexibility makes it an effective deterrent to both traditional and asymmetric threats, making it lucrative for potential buyers.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a European military mega-project that was developed in collaboration between Great Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy. These four European powerhouses developed a powerful foredeck, delta wing, out-of-sight melee aircraft capable of surface attack and super cruise.
The Eurofighter Typhoon can maintain speeds in excess of Mach 1 without having to use its afterburners.
The fighter has two Eurojet EJ-200 engines developed in Munich and is equipped with high-end avionics, countermeasures and a large number of pilot-friendly cockpit features. The fighter jet has an internally mounted Mauser BK27 mm revolver gun system, which is supported by a connectionless closed ammunition feed system. The Eurofighter Typhoon has 13 hardpoints to carry weapons.
The Typhoon has a fatal blow and can change its weapon payload based on mission requirements.
For example, the Typhoon can be armed with six BVRAAM / AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, two ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missiles for air superiority roles. Four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, two cruise missiles and two anti-radar missiles (ARM) for air defense operations and up to four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, six anti-radar missiles for suppressing enemy air defenses.
In multi-role missions, the Typhoon can accommodate three AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, two ARM and two GBU-24 Paveway III / IV. It can also be depressed for close air support, during which it can be armed with four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM and 18 Brimstone anti-tank missiles.
For maritime attack operations, the Typhoon can carry four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM and six anti-ship missiles. The typhoon has decades of combat experience ranging from operations in Libya, Iraq and Syria.
The Swedish JAS Gripen is a multi-purpose fighter developed by Saab. The Gripen made its maiden flight in December 1988 and was accepted into the Swedish Air Force in 1997. The aircraft is powered by a single Volvo Aero RM12 turbofan engine with afterburning. The Gripen can only carry one pilot.
The length of the aircraft including the control tube is 14.1 meters, the wingspan including launchers is 8.4 meters, and the total height of the aircraft is 4.5 meters. The starting weight of the Gripen in the basic configuration of the hunter is 8.5 tons. Its maximum take-off weight is 14 tons and the curb weight is 5,700 kilograms.
The dry thrust of the Gripen is 54 kilonewtons; its thrust afterburner is 80.5 kN and the jet can fly at top speeds of 2,470 km / h. The service limit of the aircraft is 15,240 m and has a combat radius of 800 km and a range of the ferry of 3,200 km.
The Gripen has an internally mounted 27mm high energy Mauser cannon that can be operated in automatic radar controlled aiming mode. The air-to-air missiles typically found on the Gripen are MBDA, MICA, Raytheon AIM-120B AMRAAM, and Lockheed Martin / Raytheon Sidewinder AIM-9L.
Air-to-surface missiles on the Gripen include the Saab RBS 15 F radar-guided anti-ship missile and the Raytheon Maverick missile. Future versions of the Swedish Air Force variant of the Gripen are expected to be armed with the Diehl BGT Defense IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile and the MBDA Meteor BVR air-to-air missile.
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The Eurofighter Typhoon is in service with the British Royal Airforce, the German Air Force, the Italian Aeronautica Militare, the Spanish Ejercito Del Aire and the Austrian Luftstreitkaafte. They are the primary European users of the platform.
In the Middle East, the aircraft is used by the Royal Saudi Airforce, the Royal Airforce of Oman, the Kuwait Airforce and the Qatar Emiri Air Force, which also operates the Rafale.
The JAS Gripen is mainly operated by the Swedish Air Force, the Czech Air Force, the Hungarian Air Force, the South African Air Force and the British Empire Test Pilot School, while the Rafale aircraft is used in Europe by France and has been ordered by Greece and Croatia in smaller sizes Number.
The Eurofighter is a joint venture and comprises Europe’s largest military program. The UK, Germany, Spain and Italy laid the foundation for the Eurofighter program, and as a result, these countries have added the Typhoon to their air forces.
Taking into account the purposes of the EU countries, the combat platform does not matter and can be interchangeable for all practical purposes as long as the weapon profile remains similar.
From an operational point of view, the procurement of the Typhoon makes more sense for European nations. Because they will all operate a common air fleet, share a uniform logistics chain and operate common weapons systems. This will ensure a smooth supply chain and a universal flight operations doctrine for all EU partners.
From an economic point of view, joint procurement of the Typhoon would benefit EU countries by allowing them to pool the money needed to purchase and share technological know-how, while receiving dividends on the sale of the aircraft.
In addition, as NATO members, the EU partners will find it more convenient to operate a combat platform, which reflects their commitment to their joint military diplomacy.
It is important to note that some EU countries do not need a large air force and so are happy with a platform as long as it meets their basic operational needs.
Over 550 Typhoon jets were bought by the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia, while export orders for Rafales of 36 for India, 36 for Qatar, 24 for Egypt and 180 out of a planned 286 for the French Air Force itself (in addition to smaller orders from Greece and Croatia).
Despite being the “best in the business,” says Niin J Ticku, a defense expert for the EurAsian Times, says Rafale’s loss to Typhoon or US fighter jets had less to do with technology and more to do with external factors.
For example, Rafale lost to US Boeing when South Korea and Singapore opted for F-15 jets. Ticku says that the Dassault Jets were outperformed in the former situation for political reasons and in the latter for cost reasons, as the dollar had depreciated sharply at the time.
Rafales also lost on sales to Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Kuwait, South Korea, Switzerland, etc. Rafale’s export prospects are said to be hurt by the high purchase price of the aircraft in addition to high operating costs, according to an earlier report in the EurAsian Times.
In the lucrative race to sell fighter jets, the most important criterion is the political one. It has little to do with aircraft performance, â€stressed Ticku, adding that the Eurofighter is supported by four powerful European nations and major armaments companies and that it makes veryâ€œ political sense â€to opt for Typhoon versus French Rafales.