Was the Typhoon’s wing design stolen from the Mirage 2000?
Historically, there’s been lots of accusations of underhand play by European aircraft manufacturers. There’s the oft-cited (and certainly false) claim that Dassault was inspired to create the delta-winged Mirage after seeing the Fairey Delta 2 in the early 1950s, an arrogant British theory that does not seem to make sense chronologically. Going the other way across La Manche is the French assertion that the Harrier was a French concept (which is half-true but generous to Michel Wilbault). There’s also the possibly true claim that Dassault was secretly working on a indigenous swing-wing design while negotiating a part in the AFVG, the failed precursor to the Tornado (which led to the fastest European aircraft ever flown). The accusations go both way however. I was talking to a French aerospace engineer, who has asked to remain nameless, and we got onto the subject of the Typhoon. He grudgingly admired the weapons carriage arrangement, thought the intake design odd, but was most animated when talking about the wing which he claimed was a rip-off of the Mirage 2000s. Intrigued by this possibility I asked Jim Smith to look into this allegation. Here are his thoughts:
“Superficially, there is a resemblance between the wing design of the two aircraft, which is not surprising given the advantages in wave-drag and the ability to have a low thickness to chord, and yet reasonable internal volume for fuel and structure.
In detail, however, there are some significant differences arising from the differing approach taken to stability and control between the Mirage 2000 and the Typhoon.
The table below compares some parameters which define the wing shape – note that the fact that the Typhoon has a bigger wing is not really relevant to the debate. It is a bigger, heavier aircraft and has a bigger wing.
Parameter Eurofighter Typhoon Mirage 2000
Leading edge sweep 53 deg 58 deg
Taper ratio 0.166 0.085
Trailing edge sweep ~4 deg 3.5 deg (both negative sweep)
Leading edge flap/slat Part-span Near full span
Aspect Ratio 2.4 2.0
Stability 35% unstable ‘Relaxed stability’
Configuration Canard-Delta Pure Delta
Structure Spars Aligned with local sweep Spars at right angles to fuselage
While the wings appear similar, the use of the canard configuration for Typhoon, and its highly unstable design, have led to subtle differences in sweep, aspect ratio, taper ratio, section, camber and twist, as well as different leading edge manoeuvre devices.
Knowing, from my past position advising the project on aerodynamics and performance, the intimate connection between wing aerodynamics, aircraft control laws and (in)stability, performance and structural load management, there is, in my view, no probability that the Typhoon wing owes any of its design features to the Mirage 2000.”
Yes. Its quite silly that the Brits would steal something , which by that era was being designed uniquely for each airplane by computer software. For civilian planes and military cargo lifters, it was Britain who came up with the first ‘super critical wing’ for the VC10, essentially a highly specific computer design, instead of the old way of choosing airfoil cross sections from standard sections produced by research institutes. The VC10 got part of the design ‘wrong’ as they found when test flying the prototype, and the fuel consumption wasnt as good as predicted. However by that time the first dozen or so wing boxes had been made for early production and couldnt be changed. Later models had the fix. Its not easy being first.
The French have had some funny tricks back in the 50s apart from the test flights flown by the FD2 in France in front of Dassault engineers which would have helped Dassault over some of its design choices. When Grumman produced the J79 version of the Tiger , a Mac 2 plane which could compete with the M2.0 Mirage, a Dassault test pilot got the go ahead for a test flight in US in 1958 and on the 2nd flight made an error with the flaps just before touchdown and the plane skidded along the runway but broke its back and was un-repairable.
Brits? The Eurofighter was a european effort, with airframe design mainly deriving from Germany, whilst the engine design mainly deriving from Britain.
The two wings are surprisingly dissimilar. In the video below the two fly together; at the camera. In this view, in flight, see how the wings attacking the air is demonstrated. The difference is stark. The Typhoon wing demonstrates a curvature forward, lifting toward the top of the intakes. The Typhoon’s wing is as beautiful as the Spitfires in my opinion, with this comparison putting me in mind of comparing a Spitfire wing to the Hurricane’s.
For a similar wing look to the Rafale. Quelle surprise eh. This clip starts with the Typhoon wing, then onto the Rafale, which looks uncannily like the Mirage wing, n’est pas:
The more interesting question to ask is, why is Typhoon’s wing different to EAP?
And with the benefit of hindsight was this a sensible decision?
This ‘more interesting’ (cheeky) question is touched upon in this: https://hushkit.net/2012/08/31/the-bae-experimental-aircraft-programme-photo-journal/
And was also covered here: https://hushkit.net/2017/12/29/ask-the-insider-eurofighter-typhoon/