2-engine fighters for Canada to consider

This is a chart I created which compares 2-engine aircraft candidates for Canada’s CF-18 replacement.

It is subjective; but a good generalist comparison when you take a look at the following kinds of performance.

Price-

The Super Hornet will be the cheapest to procure. The Rafale should be about the same as the Typhoon on paper except that the Rafale sales force has a history of not performing–especially when the French government interferes.

Low Observable-

The F-15 Silent Eagle can carry internal weapons, so it gets some head-on L.O. points.

Cost to operate-

The F-15 in any form will be more expensive to operate. Having seen the depot end of the sustainment cycle I can tell you it is more work. One advantage for the F-15 Silent Eagle / Strike Eagle is that it comes off the show room floor with 12,000 hours of airframe life. Sustainment cost is what you make it.

Intercept time-

An easy one. The Super-slow-Hornet will be at the tail end of this competition which measures brake-release to intercept. I am giving a bit of advantage to the Typhoon over the Rafale but still the Rafale is better than a classic or Super-slow Hornet. Also the F-15 is what ever you make it. It can be the L.O. variant. It can pose as a Strike Eagle with lots of gas or you can have it stand alert with just one center-line tank and no conformal fuel tanks and with the big motors it has, is a complete animal.

Pilot Retrain Cost-

Not a small matter in a frugal air force. Super Hornet wins by a large margin. While the F-15 is a two-aircrew jet, I pushed this into part of the cost-to-operate figures.

AESA-

Currently only the F-22, F-15 and Super Hornet are fielded with a proven AESA. The Rafale and Typhoon will have this some day.

Air-to-Ground-

The F-22 can take 2 JDAMs or 8 small diameter bombs (SDB) into a stiff defense. Something the others can’t claim. However at this time it doesn’t have the versatility of the other aircraft in weapons. The Rafale carries a lot but the F-15 when suited up as a Strike Eagle, carries a wider variety of weapons. The Super Hornet can carry a lot, but its pointed outward SUU-79 pylons mean that it won’t be carrying stores as far. Also, Super Hornets list of cleared weapons is narrow and tailored to fleet requirements on a shoe-string sustainment budget. You could clear all kinds of weapons for the Super, but in the case of the U.S. Navy, only what they are willing to pay for to do operations.

Carrier Capable-

I put this in because Canada could gain some versatility by having one of its squadrons spend a calendar year in a work-up cycle and deployment on to an allied aircraft carrier. This could be seen as value-added. So if Rafale was considered, it could be considered as the naval variant.

Buddy-refuel-

Very useful

Range-

On paper the F-22 shouldn’t have that much range–until you calculate the effective ground speed (with no wind) at a high indicated air speed zipping along at 65,000 feet. The F-15 as a Silent Eagle can do a radius of around 750 miles. Suited up as a Strike Eagle it will see up to a 1000 miles.

And as for the F-22 not being exportable; granted Canada would most likely never ask for it. However, Canada is an ABC (Australia, Britain, Canada) and shares special circumstances in this area as found in a USAF air war college study many years back. A long shot. But still a shot.

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14 thoughts on “2-engine fighters for Canada to consider

  1. BTW, is it possible for F-15 to be configured as a buddy IFR’er? Didn’t Israelis at least experiment with this platform? I’ve seen a photo once, but can’t seem to find it after a brief search. I’d also propose a single-seat variant of the SE – perhaps either as a mixed fleet option with 2-seaters, or even as a stand-alone capability (if single is good enough for strategic F-22 and F-35 platforms, why not an SE?). Just a wild concept… but I’ve contemplated whether a standard 2-seat SE design could be more economically converted to a single seat actually using the BACK seat for pilot, albeit maybe slightly pushed forward? With all the HMD and Hudless cockpit of tomorrow… the front aspect visibility wouldn’t be great, but maybe the new Super Hornet big screen display coupled with HMD/360 view could compensate? What would be in the front seat?? Try an optional ‘internal’ 12″ aperture (!!) derivative of the standard Shadow IRST/centerline tank IRST (@ 9.2″) mounted up against the canopy for -10/+75 elevation ‘Big Search’ capability enabling seriously game-changing SA??

    Thinkin too… perhaps they could stuff an ALQ-218 derivative into the big underwing pylon (similar to some hornets having a pylon-based jammer?) as an optional pre-wired config capability giving further super SA?

    I’m curious though about a used ‘transfer’ concept… if there would be any feasibility in studying a Canadian Golden Eagle acquisition, good til 2030? Canada could pay for conversion cost only and just take over 50-60 jets? Maybe shared depot support state-side? If global peace hasn’t broken out by then, then Canada could leap frog to any hypothetical 6th gen option on the market?

    OK, I’ll quit now.

    • One problem with an F15C (golden eagle) OR F15SE especially is the risk that Canada will be buying a one off or very short production run aircraft. I mean how many SE’s can Boeing sell? Japan: 50? if they are lucky, Israel: 30? even if you assume 60 to Canada (why Canada needs that many F15’s beat’s me but I’ll play along) it’s not much of a production run. I think SH beats F15 on that point.

      • Fair points, nico –

        F-15SE could sell at a sustainable 10 yr production run, imho. Even if averaging a total customer buy of 20 SE jets manufactured per year, over 10 yrs, such an annual rate could be built into the sustainable F-15SE business model? Don’t be surprised either to see US Congress showing some interest in the jet too – even as a limited portion of any total year manufacture.

        The F-15C Golden option of course would not be new build and would be a transfer of the 170+ anticipated US conversions. Canada could pay for the conversion, thus getting a not bad 15 yr life strategic platform for pretty cheap up front. I’d personally agree that SH beats the F15 in a hypothetical Canadian flyoff selection, for their requirements… But as for ‘assuming 60 F-15SE jets for Canada’ – that number should be no different in filling requirements as requiring 60 Super Hornets, 60 Typhoons, or 60 F-35, no?

    • Yeah! PAK-FA. At least it will have range. The SHornet is short-legged, the F-15 would have it and though souped-up can’t hide its age. Big question – will the Russian bear be as tame as he is now in 20 years also? Maybe Canada should rather buy flying boats instead of fighters. Fancy fighters are only needed if Canada keeps running around with the U.S. looking for fights in far-away lands.

    • I could agree with that – no need for a Fancy Canadian fighter (hornet is fancy(?)) force structure. e.g., F-35, Su-35S, PAK-FA, forinstance. Could indeed be overkill. Late mod F-15, 4.5 EF Typhoon, or Super Horn should suffice.

      But hold onto your hats… here’s one to ponder: a customized…. J-11BH navalized venture? Same mod for USN too, license built, in lieu of F-35C!! Perhaps incorporate F119 power (or a P&W F-232?) + APG-82 + other OTS westernized systems?

      Now… here we go… Cut a long-term strategic Pacific treaty deal with PRC as part of this tech transfer/purchase package. Included, but not limited… Japan, China, Russia, US, Canada and SK to promote cooperative Regional security, and non-aggression. Call it a Pacific non-aggression treaty organization (PNATO), why of course? Aim for all joint naval patrols outside of territorial waters. Coordinated maritime air patrols over international waters. Control proliferation of offensive weapons such as TBMs and CMs (air, sub or sea launched) and maybe Bombers over a certain range? All multi-national mil training exercises in region over a certain size would include all parties. Heck, include Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in the org too!

      Thumbs up? Thumbs down…??

      Cheers-

  2. Eric,

    Some thoughts.

    Accordning to your chart, only the F-22 is worse than the SH in A/G? Reasons: Narrow list of cleared weapons ( http://www.navy.mil/navydata/aircraft/fa18/fa18ord.html or http://www.vfa-41.net/media/FA-18_Weapons.pdf vs. http://typhoon.starstreak.net/Eurofighter/weapons.html or http://www.dassault-aviation.com/en/defense/rafale/advanced-weapons.html?L=1 ) ? Not sure what SH is missing relative to EF or Rafale? BTW SH also has AAGM, JASSM and will get JAGM. Dinging SH on Range twice (once under RANGE and once for A/G)? What about tactical 2 seater need for A/G? What about the need for JHMCS (or similar) in both front and back seats for CAS?

    Missing category: What about the need for buddy jamming! Other than the F-22, which of these aircraft will not need jammer support?

    Not sure where you get your operating costs but I would suspect that Typhoon & Rafale will cost more than SH since their initial prices are higher and their R&M is at best similar and likely inferior to the Bug.

    • A closer look at Super Hornet stores doesn’t show that some of those weapons actually fly off of it in the fleet. Remember it was brought into the fleet on a shoe-string budget and more important..an upgrade spiral. There are a lot of weapons you could put on the Super but some of them haven’t been officially cleared. The Navy has to pay for each of those and if it isn’t in any of its current war ops, they are unlikely to fund it. For example; JASSM captive carry was done to a point but then the Navy got out of JASSM. I have seen that one chart before. Skipper and Walleye are long gone. SLAM and Harpoon was supposed to be done but so far (and I could be wrong) there have been no announcements of successful test shots from the Super. And then…who really wants to fly a big draggy store like that when the SUU-79 pylons are pointed outward 4 degrees? Something that the Growler/Grizzly people are learning now. Lots of visits to the tanker. As for two seat aircraft. Yeah I put in the Eagle(currently sold only as a two seater ) but I doubt you will see Canada pay for it. And well the F-35 is a single seat jet and they are OK with that much. As for buddy jamming, lets look at that. The Navy already stated in that the ALQ-99s couldn’t stand up to the new threats. And slow and draggy and all that, why bother and I doubt Canada has any use for it. Good point about the SH logistics chain. I would say that you would have to have something like lets say… a fly-off to determine that one. Maybe India can speak better on that one.

      • How hard is it to fix the darned pylons? Doesn’t the Navy know this is a HUGE stupid problem?

        I’m BAFFLED by that decision.

      • Jason, they knew it. It was all about schedule. Around 1994, wind tunnel weapon separation tests were showing a possibility of stores impacting each other. The right answer was to adjust the hard point positions…but the quick fix was to toe them out. After the A-12 fiasco, quick & cheap won out.

        But with the new contracts, a wing structural redesign might be cost-effective.

      • Thanks for the info. I am amazed at the knowledge of the people on this board.

        I just can’t believe with all the computing power and intellect in the design bureau that they couldn’t come up with something smarter than toeing out the pylons. That’s just beyond assinine to me. I bet the long term cost has more than outstripped any short-term savings.

  3. Hello,

    given the timescale of Canada’s fighter procurement,both Typhoon and Rafale are likely to be offered with A.E.S.A. radars.

    tangosix.

    • And while the Gripen does not have two engines, the NG is already flying with a very good AESA, IRST, excellent EW system, in the most reliable fighter platform flying today. And well tested in an arctic environment to boot.

      • How does all this change if the SH gets that thrust boost of 20% I keep hearing about?

        I’ve seen that thing at airshows and so on. We are right up against the biology barrier as it is. In close it is truly going to be as much about the training of the pilot and his tactics as it is anything about the plane. In close they are all so evenly matched that it becomes a matter of forcing your opponent into a position where you can exploit the weaknesses of his airplane.

        I just don’t think the SH is that bad. Eric, I think you have a h*rdon for the poor little Rhinobug.

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