“Raptor’s thrust vectoring not essential” Eurofighter pilot says in last chapter of the F-22 vs Typhoon saga

Feb 21 2013 - 50 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, an experienced Eurofighter Typhoon industry test pilot, wrote to The Aviationist to reply to a Lockheed F-35 test pilot who, talking to Flight’s Dave Majumdar had claimed that all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter will have better kinematic performance than any fourth-generation fighter plane with combat payload, including the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Now the same Typhoon pilot has once again chosen this blog (and I’m honored for this) to explain why thrust vectoring, considered one of the most important F-22 features, is not essential when you are involved in an air-to-air engagement WVR (Within Visual Range).

RAF Typhoons and U.S. Air Force F-22s are currently operating together in the U.S.: the joint mission started with a training exercise called Western Zephyr and will continue next week at the Red Flag 13-3 at Nellis Air Force Base.

Langley Typhoon

As reported in an interesting Defensenews article, the agility of the American 5th generation fighter plane is among the things that impressed British pilots the most.

According to the piece, the commander of the RAF XI Sqn Wing Commander Rich Wells, said:

“Raptor has vector thrust: Typhoon doesn’t,” he said. “What the aircraft can do, it’s incredible. The Typhoon just doesn’t do that.”

Even if it is a matter of fact that the European top class fighter jet lacks thrust vectoring (TV) our source believes that this is not a big deal.

To be honest, the points he raises were already discussed in the article about the outcome of the dogfights between the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and the German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons during last year’s Red Flag – Alaska, when Americans said the F-22 performance was “overwhelming” while German said the costly stealth fighter was “salad” for the Eurofighter’s pilots lunch.

At that time we said that the F-22 tends to lose too much energy when using TV and unless the Raptor can manage to immediately get in the proper position to score a kill, the energy it loses makes it quite vulnerable.

Anyway, here’s what he wrote to us:

We have all been around long enough to recognize there is not a single sensor able to turn the night into day, nor a unique aerodynamic design feature capable of ensuring by itself air dominance if implemented.

The effectiveness of an air superiority fighter relies on the successful combination of a range of design elements including thrust-to-weight ratio, wing loading, avionics and weapons integration. Furthermore, : appropriate tactics and valuable aircrew training must be developed to exploit the full potential of the weapon system.

Typically, when time comes to decide how to achieve the required “nose pointing capability” for high thrust-to-weight ratio airplanes three solutions are on the table:

– extremely high short term sustained Angle of Attack values (characteristic of twin tailed airplanes);
– High Off-Bore-Sight Weapons, preferably supported by Helmet Cueing;
– Thrust Vectoring.

Thrust Vectoring is one of the design elements that can contribute to create a certain advantage during close air combat by generating impressive pitch and yaw rates, but only in a limited portion of the flight envelope at velocities well below “corner speed”.

However, Thrust Vectoring can also transform in a few seconds an energy fighter in a piece of metal literally falling off the sky, making it an easy prey for those who have been able to conserve their energy.

Moreover, Thrust Vector operation requires the pilot to “create the opportunity” for its usage, spending valuable time in manoeuvring the aircraft to achieve a suitable condition and managing the activation of the Thrust Vector Control.

If you are “defensive” and your aircraft has Thrust Vectoring, you can possibly outturn your enemy, but that most likely won’t prove to be a great idea: an energy fighter like the Typhoon will conveniently “use the vertical” to retain energy and aggressively reposition for a missile or gun shot. Also the subsequent acceleration will be extremely time (and fuel) consuming, giving your opponent the opportunity to tail chase you for ever, exploiting all its short range weapon array.

If you are “neutral”, when typically vertical, rolling and flat scissors would accompany the progressive energy decay, similarly performing machines would remain closely entangled, negating the opportunity for Thrust Vector activation.

If you are “offensive”, probably stuck in a never ending “rate fight”, Thrust Vector could provide the opportunity for a couple of shots in close sequence. Make sure nobody is coming to you from the “support structure”, otherwise that could be also your last move.

Talking of twin tailed aircraft, Angles of Attack in excess of 30-35 degrees are capable of creating drag conditions unsustainable no matter the engine/airframe matching, and developing energy decays intrusive of the tactical flying but also of the flight control system protections. Roll rates would also deteriorate at the higher values of AoA and target tracking ability would quickly decay.

Eurofighter has decided to develop for the Typhoon High Off-Bore-Sight Weapons, supported by Helmet Cueing, to retain energy and target tracking ability while manoeuvring WVR (Within Visual Range) at relatively high but sustainable Angles of Attack. For those who may require some additional AoA, the “Strakes” package is progressing well and soon it will be offered to Typhoon’s Customers. Nevertheless, Strakes is not purely about extreme AoA, but also suitable Roll Rates and manageble energy characteristics. Because in the European way of doing things, an all round balanced solution counts more than a single eye opening performance.

It is a fact that against Eastern produced fighters provided with Thrust Vectoring, throughout the years the Typhoon has showed an embarasing (for them) kill-to-loss ratio.

It is a fact that after some initial encounters between the Raptor and the Typhoon, the situation appears of absolute equity. Too early to say if it is the Helmet Cueing or the Thrust Vector, or how much tactics and training are a player in all this. For sure, we are facing two impressively capable machines.

The typical answer to any critics to the F-22 air dominance is: “since it is stealthy, you should not even consider the possibility of a close encounter with another jet.”

F-22 pilot

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Even if this can be true, the risk of coming to close range is still high. At a distance of about 50 km the Typhoon IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system could be capable to find even a stealthy plane “especially if it is large and hot, like the F-22″ as a Eurofighter pilot once said.

Furthermore, Raptors are not always stealthy as one might believe: for instance, when they carry external store, rejoin with tankers or talk on the radio (secure or unsecure ones) they become more vulnerable to detection.

But this is another story, that we will discuss in the near future…

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  • Mr B.

    Typhoon pilots talk too much. But still, no one is buying it. Not India, not other asian countries. This is just pathetic.

    • cencio4

      The fact that it was sold to Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman should be a sign that someone else is buying it. There are also several possible deals in UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.

      • tonton

        thank you kickbacks. Sales in those countries are a joke. And The sale in UAE won’t happen.

        • http://twitter.com/Julien_Maire Julien Maire

          Your words are based on no relevant facts.

        • David Schwartz

          Also design partners Germany, Italy, and Spain are in process with deliveries. Canada may buy it since they feel the F-35 is too expensive.

      • John

        Saudi was the savior of the project because it almost went bankrupt. So they funded it to keep it from going under.

  • Euro

    If the F-22 dogfights, then it is doing something wrong. It’s designed to move and fight at a speed that makes thrust vectoring quite ineffective.

    Comparing a F-22 to a Eurofighter is like comparing a Cuirassier to a Dragoon. They often perform similar jobs but they are really optimized for different things.

  • G777

    Its a great article, we get to hear what typhoon pilots say and hear how technology improves fighters like Typhoon.

    What is the point of expensive stealth’s like the F22/F35 that also create problems and only has a limited chance of working in future combat? There hasn’t been a truly realistic engagement to see if stealth will work. Put Typhoon against the F22 in a BVR engagement, typhoon is said to be able to detect and evade missiles. Which makes Stealth a bit pointless if you cant hit the enemy.

    • Picard Alpha

      Stealth always was pointless except maybe for ground attack. Stealth in the air doesn’t exist, period.

    • JC Watts

      Stealth in attack form proved its effectiveness in the first attacks in Desert Storm and Panama. Air to Air not so much.

  • Johannes

    Mr B, apart from Great Britian, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, Oman and Saudi Arabia with a likely additional follow-up order. You might be aware that the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Malaysia and South Korea are showing strong, positive interests. This Typhoon’s pilot’s words obviously don’t agree with your agenda. Pity for you.

  • Flyin High

    The Soviets used to say their MiG-25 was a better fighter than the F-15, too (it wasn’t; it was a high-speed interceptor, not really a fighter). They said their ICBM’s were more precise (they weren’t). They said their computers were more powerful (they weren’t, but their programmers were top-notch). And so on.

    We’re seeing this again today, this time from Eurofighter pilots. The F-22 is simply a superior combat aircraft, and there’s European “continentalism” pride, if you will, at stake here. I’m not saying the Eurofighter is junk. It most certainly is not, and I would not want to have to go into battle against a skilled pilot flying one. It’s simply that the F-22 really is that good.

    • Liberate_me

      Maybe its just about american pride here and you can not take it that the pride of the US airforce is once getting close easy to kill!

    • ohminus

      Given the difference in the price tag, I believe the flag-waving is solidly on the US side. The Eurofighter is dramatically better than anything it will realistically face. That’s all that’s needed. Even if the F-22 were better, throwing yet more money at the fighter just for bragging rights is nothing short of wasting taxpayer money to subsidize the industry.

    • stig781

      He’s an RAF pilot, not European. The F-22 is simply not a superior combat aircraft.

      • CheetahFang258

        Oh No far from the truth. That’s a comment full of bullshit and you know it. In this scenario fighter performance is practically a wash. Because its a dogfight and its in your face you have to be fast and quick the reaction of the pilot is much more then the maneuverability. Maneuverability is worth nothing if pilots don’t have a quick enough response time and know maneuvers. In combat like BVR plane skill matters. Because pilot skill is not contributing to it at all. During Desert storm F-15s were engaged in dogfights with MIG-29s. These pilots bagged MIG-29 kills as shown in this video

  • Canny

    Flyin High, you have mis-read what was said. The Typhoon pilot is not claiming superiority nor is he saying the F-22’s TV is no good, the hint is in the title. As usual, over-reactions.

  • Someone else

    The “Raptor salad for launch” claim has been explicitely denied by the pilots from JG 74. So they either back paddle in order to repolish their image and reputation or someone has spread a false rumour to fuel the heated discussions going on at that time.

  • OG_Locc

    Hasn’t it already been pretty well established that the F-22, when not handicapped by ridiculously unrealistic training scenarios – is completely untouchable in air to air combat?

    • stig781

      No, it hasn’t.

      • John

        Actually yes it has. When they dont know where the plane is coming from or even if its in the sky, it becomes a turkey shoot.

        • Picard Alpha

          Which only happens when unrealistic scenarios are put in place to help the F-22.

          • John

            Oh let me guess, you are somehow under the impression that we let our enemies know where we are flying and just dont use any tactics whatsoever right? You are obviously not a military person. That comment shows ignorance. It is not unrealistic for the enemy to know know the plane is even in the air. So next excuse please….

            • Picard Alpha

              It is not excuse, and your “reply” has nothing to do with my statement, or logic. Is it realistic to assume BVR missile Pk against maneuvering fighter with advanced self-defense suite to be twice of what it was against a non-maneuvering targets with no ECM? Is it realistic to pretend that the F-22 costs far less and can fly far more often than it can, leading to greater force sizes compared to legacy fighters than what it would be in war?

              Keep babbling.

  • Viper

    Viper Fighter Doctrine 101: If you end up in a turning fight, you most likely will be killed by someone outside the circle.

    Quote me if you like, or just go back to your comic books.

  • Harry Dexter White.

    So what is the Raptors advantage that gives it such a high kill rate over the Typhoon. Its a good sell point though.

    • stig781

      What is this non-existent high kill rate?

      • John

        In BVR, its an amazing kill rate. As for close up, not so much. That has been stated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Kuyek/100000746655294 Dan Kuyek

    Seems to me that the difference between German comments and British suggests a little more of the F-22 capabilities were displayed to out British friends than was to the germans…who knows….

  • Jean Claude

    Three attributes for your girl friend:
    -good looking
    -social stability

    You can only have two – so choose wisely.

    Same with fighters: You have ‘conflicting goals’ …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1171911106 Facebook User

    TVC not essential?? Sure, that’s what I would say if I didn’t have it too. But if you did have TVC it would look something like this. Check out this video at about the ten second mark. Extremely impressive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyKYw_p1Hrc&list=PL543904E59AD9E578&index=13

  • http://profiles.google.com/marauder2048 Marauder 2048

    Wow..this Typhoon pilot is astonishingly ignorant about thrust-vectoring on the F-22.

    “Moreover, Thrust Vector operation requires the pilot to “create the opportunity” for its usage, spending valuable time in manoeuvring the aircraft to achieve a suitable condition and managing the activation of the Thrust Vector Control.”

    TVC is an integral part of the F-22’s flight control system and unlike the Su-30MKI’s (the “Eastern Fighter”) TVC , not manually actuated by the pilot.

    If the F-22 or the Su-30MKI enters into a low energy state where TVC is activated (either automatically or manually) in order to sustain a high AOA then as both this Typhoon pilot
    and the F-15 aggressor pilot at Red Flag 2008 have observed, the reduced engine thrust caused by TVC will cause the aircraft to tail slide.

    As the F-15 pilot pointed out, this issue can be exploited by an enemy against *novice* F-22 pilots and apparently against experienced pilots of “Eastern Fighters” equipped with TVC.

    Also, the Typhoon pilot’s claim that the Typhoon’s HMD is some brilliant innovation is quite risible; all of the US teen series fighters have been flying with HMDs for 10+ years and the F-35 has it and the F-22 will eventually have it.

    In fact, Super Hornets have attained WVR “kills” on the F-22 using the Hornets excellent noise pointing, HMDs and HOBS AIM-9Xs.

    Of course, the F-22s always start defensive against the Super Bugs much like in these exercises against the Eurofighter.

    Can we please stop thinking of IRSTs as some magical, stealth-defeating sensor…the PIRATE IRST is not a particularly modern system and the published accounts of its performance are not particularly impressive. 50 KM is a very generous idealized detection range but that would not be adequate to provide anything like a target track or a firing solution. 50 KM is also well within the killzone of a lobbed BVR.

    “large and hot, like the F-22″

    So what does that make the Typhoon? Small, hot and reflective?
    The F-22 and the F-35 for that matter will both have a first-look-first-shot-first-kill advantage over the 80’s era design, with 80’s era engines and 80’s era avionics Typhoon. Which is a major reason that three out of the four Typhoon partners are buying the F-35.

    • stig781

      You mean 90s era design, just like the Raptor. What ignorance.

    • Picard Alpha

      Thrust vectoring is useless in combat except one on one, and even then you need to create opportunity for its use else enemy will simply turn around and shoot you full of holes.


      And PIRATE’s range is 90 km from front, 145 km from rear vs subsonic fighter-sized target, 90 km is only true for OLS-35.

      • CheetahFang258

        May I remind you that the writer of that article is skeptical and biased about the F-22. In fact in the article he states “F-22 does have major advantage in thrust-to-weight ratio over Rafale,
        however, allowing it to recover some of energy lost through TVC usage
        simply by flying straight and level for short time” He also states in another article that “Effectiveness of planes do not matter as pilot skill matters more”. So he is kind of being a hypocrite. The Aviationist is also skeptical about the F-22. MIG-29s are more maneuverable then F-15s but still lost against them. as shown in the video below

        Why is the F-15 superior? The reason why is pilot skill yes I agree with him pilot skill matters. In a dogfight you can have 50 USAF aces in F-22s against 100 averagely skilled Russian pilots and the F-22s would still win. The only bad thing about F-22 pilot skill is their ego, They often tend to think they’re invincible.

        • Picard Alpha

          I don’t see anything hypocritical there. TVC has only been used in large and heavy aircraft so far, and it causes major problems with energy loss and maintenance.

          • CheetahFang258

            Old account when I was stupid

            • Picard Alpha

              I replied more because of people who might be reading the comments…

  • TKF90

    The strakes restore the “original specification” target angle of attack (AoA) envelope below corner speed by “fixing” the hard to control lateral directional instability between maximum lift AoA and the target maximum AoA (for nose pointing I presume). Going to X-31/F-22 AoA’s was never a target due to lack of integrated TVC when DASA (re)started “strakes” in 01/02.
    The F22, unlike the Hornet, can do full velocity vector roll at very high AoA because it “retrims” in pitch with between TV and tailerons, turns the tailerons “more into the wind” and thus can effectively control roll with differential taileron deflection — no magic there. TVC reduces supersonic trim drag too.

  • Maximilian

    …didn’t on one joint exercise famous Raptor lose against Indian Mig-21 Bison :P …sorry guys but they lost against Eurofighter two times once against German pilots another time against British pilots, they stop the exercise immediatley and return Raptors next day home . Normally that British pilots must say only the goooood things about Raptor because they are good allies. It is nice and good fighter but for 356 million dollars something is wrong big time not to mention flight cost and maintenance. Chinese cheap copy’s will overrun it if something happens, like in WWII German had the technological advantage but they were overrun by number. USAF lost around 26000 airmen unfortunately in WWII. Sorry but F-15 is still most reliable fighter jet in American Air Force.

    • ChuckL

      The final price released after all of the name calling was $158M. The $356M was an invention of the New York Times in their assassination piece to promote the F-35, which was suppose to cost only $40M, which is now somewhere between $95M and $112M for less than half of the performance.
      We lost big time.

      • Max Glazer

        The 356 million price is when you include the cost of the entire ATF program and then divide it by the amount of planes built. The 158 million is just the manufacturing costs. Just a clarification :)

    • Elliot

      The Navy prefers to rely on non stealth fighters and just jam everything else. So if one fails then the other will prevail. I am surprised to not see much online support for a definition for a fifth generation non-stealth fighter. Maybe a modernized version of the F15 active.

    • CheetahFang258

      No, The MIG-21 never beat the F-22 nor did they ever test it.

  • Gaylord_gaylordson

    Again with the fanboy ish obsession with wvr turning and burning….of course, these 4th gens only stand a chance if they get in close, which just doesn’t happen unless it’s a canned scenario like f22 v typhoon one mentioned.


    • stig781

      Neither are “4th gen” or “5th gen”.

  • Max Glazer

    Well Indians recon they beat the Typhoon into pulp. So much for being a better then Eastern planes.

    To Flyin High. Soviets NEVER claimed that MiG-35 was superior to F-15. Get your story straight. But they did prove time and time again that Flanker beats it.

    • Picard Alpha

      “Well Indians recon they beat the Typhoon into pulp. So much for being a better then Eastern planes.”

      They have beaten Tornadoes into pulp, but comment made by Indian pilots was then editet so as to make it seem that it were Typhoons which were beaten into pulp.

  • Max Glazer

    The way this is written it appears they almost claim that they decided to create HOBS missiles and HMS to counter TVC equipped planes. What a load of rubbish. HMS+HOBS missiles were introduced on MiG-29 and Su-27 since late 80s and Typhoon in early 90s and had nothing to do with TVC-equipped planes. Su-37 stunned the world in 1996/7 and HMS/HOBS missiles were already around.

    They also seem to be saying that TVC is only good if you set up its use correctly. You don’t say? TVC exists to maintain CONTROL in conditions when one deliberately stalls during maneuvering (risky and doesn’t mean one can keep control correctly) or pulls such AOA where aerodynamic controls are in an aerodynamic shadow and TVC maintains correct heading.

  • CheetahFang258

    Remember the pilot matters more. A quote from an F-15 pilot during desert storm: “Even if we switched planes we still would have won because the pilot matters more then the performance of the plane.”