Sunday, 25 May 2014

Kirk Webber's fighter comparison

This picture is accurate.  The Gripen really is that small and the Super Hornet really is that big!

For those of you out there who like to crunch numbers, here's one for you.

Reader Kirk Webber has compiled this excellent spreadsheet filled with information on modern western fighters that could be potential CF-18 replacements.  This information includes information pertaining to the current CF-18 Hornet (as a baseline), as well as for the F-22 Raptor (as a comparison).

I have not tampered with the data in anyway, but I did modify the format somewhat (fonts, colored columns, etc) in an attempt to make it more "readable".  There is A LOT of data here, and I haven't been able to confirm all of it.

Numbers alone do not tell a complete story, of course.  Factors like reliability, commonality, ergonomics, and others are hard to express as a simple numerical value.  Other factors need to valued depending on context.  For example, stealth is much more useful as a first-day strike capability than it is for performing close-air-support over uncontested airspace.  As usual, I encourage my readers to make their own decisions.

[NOTE:  If you have trouble viewing the document, you may need to click the "Download" button and view the PDF in a dedicated PDF viewer.  It's about 160k, no malware, I promise!]

I am going to invite Mr. Webber to monitor this page so that he can answer any questions you might have regarding sources or methodology.

Thanks again Kirk!  Your work here is greatly appreciated.


  1. ...what if the JSF-35 fighter fails?......Maybe a Saab Gripen for the US Air Force would be just fine, although the Americans would have to swallow their pride, but so what, the Hawker Siddely jump plane is British and the Americans use Glock and HS-2000 (Croatian) hand-guns!
    The Saab gripen uses the same engine as the F-18 Hornet and can be used on bombed runways! It has 10-minute turn around time, and now they claim that the jsf-35 isn't stealthy at all, as the Russians and chinese developed passive radar which can render it's "stealth" almost useless! Maybe the "just so failed 35" can be replaced with the proven Saab gripen
    E/F! Any feedback!?

  2. Question: Some articles claim that numerical comparisons such as this, between the f35 and other alternative fighters is like comparing apples to oranges. They claim that the maximum listed speed achievable by the f35 includes munition internally carried, where as other fighters listed speeds are without carrying armament. Do you feel these claims have any legitimacy? If so, have the figures provided accounted for this difference? (Especially related to the 800NM mission?)

    Thank you for providing this data, it's easy to understand and clearly shows some formidable alternatives for Canadian fighters. I was most surprised by the comparative long range of the gripen, but also the low cost of the rafale despite it's high performance. Thanks for the education.

  3. The F-35 has a mere 4 hard points internally, two of which are reserved strictly for AMRAAM carriage. Anything more, and you start adding drag, just like the others. It should also be noted that the F-35 is already quite bulky thanks to its stealthy design and need to accommodate the F-35B's lift fan (thanks to commonality).

    It should also be noted that, so far, there are no external fuel tanks available for the F-35. Meanwhile, all the others have options for different size external tanks mounted in different configurations. All of them hold an adequate amount of fuel internally. Some of them, like the Super Hornet and Typhoon, will soon be available with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs).

    For more, check out my post here:

  4. Thanks Doug.

  5. That's my question as well, does the reduced drag benefit the F-35? Where is the benefit? It's either range or acceleration and so far neither number is alarmingly fabulous.

    FYI Just be wary that "my" numbers are very approximate. It was a honest effort to pull some "known" numbers into a fair comparison.

  6. Well approximates help, so thanks for the perspective. But to be honest I'm not sure any high performance numbers could justify the incredible price of the f35 fleet. Frankly speaking, for some of the highest cost estimates projected (including costs to convert the planes for Canadian use), I would only be satisfied if the machines would be able to fly into outer space! :p Why not an affordable solution that is "good enough", instead of a stealthy bomber?... I'm having allot of difficulty drinking the kool aid on this one and trusting our current leadership when there is at least one us military aviation expert who says the f35 is a terrible fighter because the fuselage is too big and the wings are too small. If this turns into a financial nightmare we are going to be sacrificing's a great deal for years to come.