Farnborough 2012: "Yesterday we had Raptor salad for lunch" Typhoon pilot said after dogfighting with the F-22 at Red Flag Alaska

Jul 13 2012 - 40 Comments

Although a Royal Air Force Typhoon took part to the daily air display, the most interesting thing at Farnborough International Airshow 2012 was the opportunity to get some more details about the recent participation of the German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons to the Red Flag.

In fact the last Red Flag-Alaska saw the first attendance by both the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptors and German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.

As we have already reported, the Typhoons and the Raptor had the opportunity engage each other in dissimilar air combat training but only a part of the story about the outcome of the mock engagements has been reported so far: the one about the German commander saying that the F-22′s capabilities are “overwhelming,” a statement that, according to Eurofighter sources, was taken out of context.

Indeed, Typhoon pilots at Farnborough said that, when flying without their external fuel tanks, in the WVR (Within Visual Range) arena, the Eurofighter not only held its own, but proved to be better than the Raptor.

Indeed, it looks like the F-22 tends to lose too much energy when using thrust vectoring (TV): TV can be useful to enable a rapid direction change without losing sight of the adversary but, unless the Raptor can manage to immediately get in the proper position to score a kill, the energy it loses makes the then slow moving stealth combat plane quite vulnerable.

This would be coherent by analysis made in the past according to which the TV it’s not worth the energy cost unless the fighter is in the post stall regime, especially in the era of High Off Bore Sight and Helmet Mounted Display (features that the F-22 lacks).

Obviously, U.S. fighter pilots could argue that, flying a stealthy plane they will never need to engage an enemy in WVR dogfight, proving that, as already explained several timeskills and HUD captures scored during air combat training are not particularly interesting unless the actual Rules Of Engagement (ROE) and the training scenario are known.

However, not all the modern and future scenarios envisage BVR (Beyond Visual Range) engagements and the risk of coming to close range 1 vs 1 (or 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3 etc) is still high, especially considered that the F-22 currently uses AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, whose maximum range is around 100 km (below the Meteor missile used by the Typhoon).

Moreover, at a distance of about 50 km the Typhoon IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system is capable to find even a stealthy plane “especially if it is large and hot, like the F-22″ a Eurofighter pilot said.

Anyway, the Typhoons scored several Raptor kills during the Red Flag Alaska. On one day a German pilot, recounting a succesfull mission ironically commented: “yesterday, we have had a Raptor salad for lunch.”

Above images (credit: The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli) show the Typhoon at Farnborough International Airshow 2012.

  • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ solomon

    this is the first time you’ve written a blatantly biased article. the meteor outranges the AIm-120C but the D is in development. additionally you’re discounting the difficulty in achieving a firing solution.

    damn dude you’re losing your touch.

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      In this post at least twice I’ve reminded (once with a link) that mock dogfights, HUD captures, claims, propaganda don’t prove anything in particular. Indeed I’ve reported what Eurofighter says. I think that if a pilot or a Eurofighter representative recounts that the F-22 has lost the supremacy of the skies, I have to report it.

      Have you noticed that even Craig Hoyle at Flight Global has reported the same news days ago with other details? Don’t you think it’s because it’s interesting? I’ve reported what Eurofighter/GAF pilots claimed. If I was given the same details from Lockhehed I would write them too. As I’ve always done.

      Dealing with the AIM-120, we are talking about engagements that have been already flown, so we have to consider the current weapons.

      Why didn’t you leave a comment when we reported that the F-22 capabilities were “overwhelming”?

      • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ solomon

        its not interesting, its misleading but i note your “defense”. i won’t bother to comment again.

        • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

          So I should be blamed because I’ve recounted what the GAF and Eurofighter told me and I thought it could be interesting and worth a debate.
          Ok.

      • Bill. G.

        As expected, there’s a lot of back-and-forth on this kind of stuff and not much really gets proven until an aircraft shows itself in combat. Is the F-22 “overwhelming” or is it “salad” for the Eurofighter? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

        What tends to get lost is: what is the mission of the jet? How is it best used? The F-14 used to do dogfighting practice with the F-16 and get hammered every time. But the mission of the F-14 was as a fleet defense interceptor. Slowing down and getting into a dogfight with an F-16 on its terms was never its strength or how it was intended to be used. I get the feeling the same sort of thing is happening here.

        These kinds of back-and-forth press releases have been happening forever. Back in the 1970s, an SR-71 Blackbird was “successfully” intercepted by a USAF F-15. The SR-71′s flight path, speed, and exact times of its flight was provided beforehand. USAF Air Combat Command immediately put out a press release that the mighty SR-71 was successfully intercepted by an F-15 with all the associated chest-thumping that you’d expect. The exercise was flown again without flight path information of the SR-71 being provided. The F-15 never came anywhere close to intercepting the Blackbird. What’s my long-winded point here? There’s a lot that we don’t know about this exercise and these press-releases tend to be pretty meaningless.

        • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

          I concur.
          Your analysis is perfect. Unfortunately, it looks like there’s some people that don’t seem to read the part when I say that HUD captures, kills, press releases and so on are almost meaningless, each time I publish this kind of articles. They tend to focus on the outcome of the mock engagement.
          Moreover, my U.S. readers don’t accept the F-22 can be beaten, even though they can accept the aircraft is quite expensive.
          If I wanted to factious I would say that the Raptor it’s unsafe since it chocks pilots….
          Thank you Bill for your always interesting comments.

  • lalucre

    As an European it makes me proud that “our” Eurofighters kick ass.

    But to be honest, comparing the Eurofighter and the Raptor in close combat is maybe not really fair. The Raptor was not build for close combat – in fact, it was build to kill long before he enters an enemy’s visual range. Going crazy about a Eurofighter’s WVR kill is like going crazy about a Raptor shooting down another plane at 50km without being noticed itself.

    But in the end I think it might have still been a mistake not to equip the F-22 with a helmet mounted display. It reminds me of the history of the F-4, which was designed without a gun, as it was believed it would kill everything from far away with it’s missiles – only to find out that in reality it got into a lot of close combat action with MiGs, and then suffered heavily.

    • Bill. G.

      I remember a few years ago when a T-38 flying an aggressor role got a guns kill on an F-22 in training and a bunch of T-38 people that I know personally where really chest-thumping over it. In their office cubicles, they had gun camera stills tacked on the walls with colorful comments and everybody was talking excitedly about it.

      It turned out later that the experienced F-22 guy was purposely holding back to teach the younger, less experienced T-38 guy some things and the “kill” happened during that training moment. That’s how the younger guys learn. It doesn’t do anything for them to have the 20-year guys go out and “kill” the newer pilots within 5 seconds and the new guys never even saw or heard a thing.

      The purpose is training and we don’t know all the conditions of that. Even full-on wargames can be heavily skewed to favor one side to win. The purpose is to learn, not to always win.

      • strfx4

        Older guy get pwned by younger guy. Says “oh, I just let him win”. Story never gets old.

        • OnlyOneWing

          You know, a T-38 is a trainer. Not even used in actual combat. I doubt this was an act of skill. Either extreme luck or like the old man said, he was taking it easy.

          • Picard Alpha

            F-86s have consistently defeated MiG-21s, which have consistently defeated F-4s and F-105s, so…

  • Mark Brueschke

    While AIM-120D isn’t out yet, the C-5 is and it has an operational range greater than 105 km.

  • DGR

    For this to be settled I think we need a squadron level dogfight. A squadron of Raptors and a squadron of Typhoons. Let them go at it in a real world scenario and dont limit them to long or close range engadgements. If there is good AWACs support I would see a more plausable scenario of the raptors hanging out of range until they get into a better firing position. Granted that isnt the purpose of this training, but id be interested to see a full scale scenario with both sides having full AWACs C2. Do you have any info on how many fights where conducted and how often the typhoon “won?” Very interesting write up, but then again as you said it was training.

  • nico

    I don’t find David to be biased and I think the story is interesting but should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s just pilots talking, no one knows all the details and such so who cares if GAF got a shot or not on a F22? Doubt Raptor pilots lost any sleep because of it…..

    • Bill. G.

      Exactly right, this kind of back-and-forth banter happens all the time. There once was a day when the the Harrier jump jet was called “The Widowmaker”, its safety record was being debated all over the place, and everything in the media about it was bad.

      Looking at the 40-year history of the various versions of the Harrier, its performance in the Falklands War and Persian Gulf War of 1991, that jet sure isn’t being trashed these days. Don’t always trust the negative press about things.

  • Troy

    First let me say I have been actively serving in the military for 22 years (16 Navy and 6 years Air Force and going). My trade is aircraft armament systems, 22 years in the fighter community (F-14, F/A-18A+ and currently the F-16C+.

    Been around and worked with ALOT of fighter pilots. One thing is a truth in the fighter community…….the truth alot of times is the first casualty and gets stretched in public especially when speaking to taxpayers. I have a working knowledge on the AIM-120, AIM-9X, et al, but will not discuss its capabilities here nor in public. I will say to you folks who are “arm chair” experts in modern aircraft weapons systems and munitions because read and believe what you see in Wikipedia, or other indusry blogs, and Aviation Leak and Spy Technology is not reality in knowledge of muntion and aircraft capabilities.

    Since I am not SME (Subject Matter Expert) on the F-22 I will refrain from any comments on what it can, what it will do in the near future and what it cannot d0. Others should do the same.

    Everyone is entitled to their “opinion” and Dave don’t change a thing…I enjoy your blog, but some folks should not speak until there are facts known other wise it is an uneducated statement, I mean I could easily believe as there is proof of a T-38 “gunning” an F-22 a few years ago in a gun pipper, but I don’t have all the facts surrounding that event to come to a logical conclusion.

    Cheers

  • http://gravatar.com/lordconstablewilliam lordconstablewilliam

    Actually, Aim-120D AMRAAM is 100+ miles – beyond Meteor. AIM 120D is in service. Also, IRST can’t track half that far unless you’re looking from a rear aspect into after burners – and even then in very narrow aperture. Besides, TV/post stall issues are why these exercizes happen — to refine tactics :)

  • zbigniewmazurak

    Only someone totally ignorant about fighter aircraft could write something like this.

    For starters, the Raptor is, as others have stated, designed primarily for BVR A2A combat. This is not something that the EF-2000 excels at. Thus, the Raptor would easily shoot down the vast majority of EF-2000s it would encounter from a long distance, BVR, with its missiles, while not being detected. As a stealthy fighterplane, it has a huge advantage over the EF-2000.

    You wrongly claimed that the Meteor has a longer range than the AIM-120 AMRAAM. That is incorrect. The AIM-120C-5 has a range of over 105 kms; the AIM-120D, a range of over 180 kms; the Meteor, a range of slightly over 100 kms.

    There’s also another big difference. The AIM-120C-5 is already in service and the AIM-120D has already entered full production. The Meteor is still in development and won’t enter production (let alone service) until 2013 at the earliest. Given Europe’s (and especially EADS’s) record with defense programs, which is even worse than that of the DOD’s, it’s likely it will be delayed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIM-120_AMRAAM
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_missile

    Fighter aircraft ain’t everything. Missiles also make a big difference. And the AIM-120D makes one heck of a difference.

    (While on this subject, I’d also like to remind the Russians that their supposedly “Amraamski” missile, the AA-12 Adder, has a range of 160 kms, over 20 kms shorter than that of the AMRAAM D, and the radar of their current and projected fighters are inferior to that of the F-22.)

    But the F-22 is better than the EF-2000 even on its own merits. Not only is it stealthy (and thus much more survivable), it has a better Thrust/Weight ratio, much more powerful engines (giving much better dry and wet thrust), better speed, and better weapons. It is in a class by itself. In a close-range fight, if the EF-2000 pilot can see the F-22 with his own eyes and target his weapons at the F-22, he stands a chance. But the F-22 is unlikely to permit him to come within a close range.

    But let the Germans salivate for now, while they still can. In 2016, the PAKFA will enter service, followed 1-3 years later by the J-20, and when they do, they will render every Western fighter other than the F-22 and perhaps the F-35 impotent, irrelevant, and useless. Including your precious EF-2000.

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      I like Wikipedia-based SMEs…

    • F35rules

      From what I’ve read the range of the AMRAAM is shorter than what is claimed in those links. The C-5 has about 75km range, the C-7 about 90km, the D 110km. The D has a stretched motor – 1 foot longer or so – and is said to have about 50% more range than the C-5s.

      However it’s true that the F-22 should be able to launch its AIM-120s from higher/faster, giving them more range.

      A new dual pulse motor is in the works now for the AMRAAM and the dev will be finished mid 2013s so you can expect something like 20%more range, probably still shorter than the meteor.

      In WVR it is not surprising that the typhoon is superior given that is has an HMS and much superior missiles. This will change when the F-22 gets AIM-9X capability, but until then it is clearly superior.

    • Michael

      Actually METEOR is ahead of schedule, the test-firing were successful, it will be available before year end.

      “before the year end.”
      http://www.defpro.com/news/details/37365
      /?SID=d038628c5786ab3f8721c07b038de7f6

    • M. D.

      I think this is the answer: http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/aim-120d-vs-mbda-meteor/

      METEOR as ramjet-engine is a complete different system, another generation and due to the way it’s active working much more deadly than AIM 120-D (see article).

      Interesting citation:
      “However, both missiles are BVR, making their actual value questionable. In fact, jamming and IFF issues mean that BVR missiles are far more likely to be used as a WVR weapon than in their intended purpose. While AIM-120 did achieve 6 BVR kills out of 13 firings, all but one were against non-maneuvering targets with no ECM and no awareness of missile. By comparing difference in Pk between maneuvering and non-maneuvering targets for AIM-9, it can be concluded that AIM-120 will achieve Pk of at most 11%; however, it is larger and heavier than AIM-9, as well as more vulnerable to countermeasures, so even that is an optimistic estimate.”

      So I wouldn’t entrust too much in beeing “stealth” a couple of seconds before…

  • EM745

    -”Indeed, Typhoon pilots at Farnborough said that, when flying without their external fuel tanks, in the WVR (Within Visual Range) arena, the Eurofighter not only held its own, but proved to be better than the Raptor.”

    But see, they weren’t just flying without their tanks. They were, according to the German pilots themselves, “slicked off as much as possible.” Now tell me, how much of a threat is a thoroughly “slicked off” fighter in the real world, hmm? Just what possible relevance does this pilot’s conclusion (“[EF] proved to be better than the Raptor”) have in this case?

    Also, you’re just reporting one side of the story here. This is what the USAF had to say on these WVR BFM’s:

    “It sounds as though we have very different recollections as to the outcomes of the BFM engagements that were fought,” one Raptor pilot says. USAF sources say that the Typhoon has good energy and a pretty good first turn, but that they were able to outmaneuver the Germans due to the Raptor’s thrust vectoring. Additionally, the Typhoon was not able to match the high angle of attack capability of the F-22. “We ended up with numerous gunshots,” another USAF pilot says.

    But hey, I wouldn’t expect any less from a Brit blogger/”reporter.”

    Jon Lake would be proud.

    And BTW, just to correct a common misconception: The F-22 was in fact designed to dominate other fighters in both BVR _AND_ WVR.

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      Thanks,
      if you think that I’m a Brit blogger, this means that my English writing skills are very good…

  • solider1999

    I always knew that the craptor is so full of propaganda and not up to the standard, when i saw the stealth design i knew from the start but had no true evidence to back me up but when i saw an interview with Pierre Sprey the guy behind the f-16 & a-10!!!!!! wooow that’s all i had to say.

  • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

    This comment thread reminds me this one, about the Rafale vs F-22 engaments.
    Give it a read:
    http://theaviationist.com/2012/04/30/iran-f-22/

  • Jupiter

    Solomon ….. as usual ….. does not see beyond his nose …..

  • http://viewpointofview.wordpress.com viewpointofview

    What I think is missing from this discussion is: The Eurofighter and F-22 Raptor will, unless the political climate of the world changes dramatically, never ever meet in actual air to air combat. How the two compare is only interesting on a theoretical level.

    • Recoloniser

      Or on a commercial and/or technology development one. That is not an academic question. Which is the better technology to buy for a foreign customer and which is the more interesting one to develop further for the air force(s) and the manufacturer. The USAF seems to be on a different tack than the European air forces.

  • EM745

    Okay, so you’re Italian. My bad.

    Still a biased and incomplete report.

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      Thanks.
      “Biased and incomplete” since it doesn’t report what you’d like it to report. Once again, if I wanted to say something against the F-22 I would say that Raptors can’t maneuver at high gees, because their pilots would suffer hypoxia like symptoms.

  • Tim wilson

    The problem for the US has is too few of the hanger queen Raptors.

    There is now way in a high tempo big air war that the USAF can allow F22′s to sit on the ground having their stealth coatings touched up while F15′s are left to take on Russian or Chinese 5th Gen fighters.

    Subsequently the F22′s stealth will be compromised.

    A great plane but like the JSF it is too far a jump in tech and due to the recessionary pressures the USAF will end up too few jets that will be never live up to Lockheed’s BS.

    I can’t see how the USAF or USN will be able to protect their bases/carriers if the Chinese just build thousands of simple front aspect stealth jets loaded to the gills with missiles.

    As for the Typhoon it works and will mature into great jet that will easily deal with any potential Russian threat.

    • km

      F35s will have a much, much, quicker turn around time when dealing the coatings being repaired.

  • Tim wilson

    Apologies for typos , Iphone !

  • http://gravatar.com/klabigula klabigula

    I think anyone who doubts this story should also read the equivalent account, which is published here:

    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/in-focus-german-eurofighters-impress-during-red-flag-debut-373312/

    The mock battle was merely limited to within visual range combat:

    “As part of the Distant Frontier exercise, F-22s from the USAF’s 525th Fighter Squadron faced off against the German fighters in visual-range basic fighter manoeuvres (BFM) combat training.”

    Consequently, beyond visual range effectiveness was not tested and wasn’t even disputed among the pilots:

    “Grune says that the Raptor’s advantage lies in its stealth and ability to dominate air-to-air fights from beyond visual range. That is not disputed by USAF sources.”

    So the dog fighting capabilities of both planes were tested. The typhoons were “stripped of their external fuel tanks” during the encounter. However this is not unrealistic, because it is standard procedure to drop the external fuel tanks in a real dogfight.

    So how does the Typhoon stand up against the F-22 is a dogfight?

    “Pfeiffer notes that the Eurofighter has better acceleration and can out-climb the F-22. ­Additionally, he says that the Raptor sinks when it is using its thrust vectoring capabilities, although one USAF source says he is skeptical of the German claims.

    Overall, Grune says the two aircraft are closely matched in the visual range arena, but Pfeiffer says the Typhoon is the superior ­dogfighter.”

    The F-22 pilots appear to disagree, claiming the following:

    “USAF sources say that the Typhoon has good energy and a pretty good first turn, but that they were able to outmanoeuvre the Germans due to the Raptor’s thrust vectoring. Additionally, the Typhoon was not able to match the high angle of attack capability of the F-22. “We ended up with numerous gunshots,” another USAF pilot says.”

    Sounds like it was a close call and the Typhoons were a lot better than usually granted by the USAF that usually claims that the F-22 is virtually invincible and in a whole new class than the Typhoons (5th generation vs. 4th generation)…

    • Recoloniser

      Superior acceleration, climbing speed and sustainable combat velocity mean that you have and retain the decision whether, when and how to engage the fight. I think most fighter pilots have preferred that over superior turning ability since the Battle of Britain.

  • R-55

    No need to get worked up on David being biased. He’s already stated, we don’t know the ROE’s, so much of what we see is inconclusive.

    Besides, I am of the opinion that when it comes to the F-22 fighting late model “4.5+” gen aircraft, they SHOULD get shot down. If the F-22 guys are not pushing the envelope, finding out their weaknesses during DACT, then they’re not learning.

  • eassd

    If true, this is rather disappointing given the money and energy spent on our next-gen air superioritiy fighter. I would expect the F-22 to be superior in all respects. But what was said about thrust vectoring meaning lost energy makes sense. What a disappointment. In anycase, the F-22 is still a more beautiful fighter.

  • Spencer

    Yes, the raptor was built in for close engagement. It has lots of wing area, ( more than any other fighter) and has 70000-80000 lbs of thrust. It has a 1.26 thrust to weight ratio in combat load. Oh, and it has a 30 degree per second SUSTAINED turn radius. Nothing else comes close. In experienced hands, nothings a match for it. But, the USAF has mostly new pilots flying the raptor. Notice above it said that the TV lost too much airspeed. This is called PSM or post stall maneuvering. The young raptor pilots get impatient and keep pulling hard on the stick, wanting more than the sustained 30 dps. The TV pushes the rear end down when the pilots keep pulling on the stick, and it goes into a high alpha maneuver, losing airspeed. Then, when it’s in PSM the other plane has a fleeting shot at the raptor. But the experienced guys know not to go into the PSM, and they make very good use of the sustained 30 dps turn radius. And 30 dps is a lot more than any other plane.