Doug ‘Boog’ Denneny is a former TOPGUN Instructor and F-14 RIO/Super
Hornet WSO. He commanded VF-2 and VFA-2 and has over 3500 hours in Navy fighters. After retirement from the US Navy he has continued to work in the defense industry and is currently the CEO of a US company, CoAspire,
LLC. These are his personal views and not representative of any company
or government. Special thanks to Dave ‘Bio’ Baranek.
Imagine a beyond visual range duel between the F-14 Tomcat and Typhoon. Both would be armed with phenomenally long ranged weapons, and both would be piloted by well trained aircrew with powerful sensors. So who would win?
Hypothetical BVR duel between a F-14D with Phoenix Missiles and Typhoon with Meteor:
For any comparison in a BVR duel, you have to first look at the platform (ability to detect or be detected based upon RCS) and its sensors (radar or other sensors). There are multiple spectra to consider these days, like RF, IR, and visual, that when combined with ECM, ECCM, and the all-important launch altitude and airspeed of your aircraft and the enemy aircraft, that can make the duel very interesting. Think Stealth, Speed, Altitude and Sensors.
And then you need to look at the aircrew. Their training, their propensity to commit to a deadly head-to-head BVR missile dual. Do I want to risk my life today for the dictator/autocrat/party official who told me to go launch against NATO/Coalition forces? So, you look at the people, and the aircraft first even before looking at the missile. Manfred von Richthofen said, “The quality of the box matters little. Success depends on the man who sits in it.” However, at TOPGUN, we also said, “But the box does matter!”
And then the missile. When can the seeker go active? Do I even need a radar track? Can I just shoot and leave immediately? How fast is the enemy’s missile? Can I launch undetected? Can I detect incoming
fire? Will I get the first shot off? If I don’t get the first shot off, can I run away before shooting my missiles, defeat his first volley, then turn around and run him down with my excessive speed and gas and kill him when he is trying to get back to base? Remember, Chuck Yeager shot down an Me 262 that was in the landing pattern.
Now, putting all of that together. Meteor is a very long-range missile with an active seeker and an impressive throttleable ducted ramjet. The missile gets high and fast, just not incredibly high or incredibly fast since it is breathing air and zipping along in the thin air, just not the really thin air. But
very formidable when you look at its estimated no escape zones in all quarters. Typhoon, as your readers know, is an extremely impressive fighter with great sensors and can get high and fast to launch. It only
has a fraction of the gas of the TOMCAT and is feeding two engines as well.
So to the comparison, the Typhoon, with its AESA (editor note: AESA should be operational on the Typhoon later this year) and IRST would see the big (huge RCS) Tomcat at long range coming at it at just under Mach 2, and track the Tomcat to achieve launch parameters with the METEOR at range.
The F-14D with all of its sensors, high power out, IRST, Data Links and SA, and trained two-person aircrew with ability to artfully manage launch acceptability regions, would be formidable. The F-14D with
its massive GE motors and 20,000 lbs. of gas at takeoff, and its swing wings allowing very high speeds, and would be up in the thinnest air possible to try to out-stick the METEOR with its AIM-54C+ missiles. It could get a firing solution at an extremely long range. The TOMCAT would likely be able to see the Typhoon at Phoenix launch range. -The METEOR can go farther than the Phoenix downrange, but speed in this case is extremely important
and the quality of the seeker is paramount. The AIM-54C+ had a phenomenal seeker with digital processing tricks that would blow your mind, and with a large active radar in its nose and high power out,
could go active way out at range, and allow the TOMCAT to turn (at Mach 2 it’s a big turn!) and run away…possibly before the METEOR could run it down.
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So, what is the bottom line? Somebody with a high-speed supercomputer and hundreds of hours of computer time and experience could figure it out for you, but my gut says, since the METEOR can just go forever – I think the advantage here could go to the METEOR (launched from a Typhoon) in a 1V1 head-on BVR matchup with the Phoenix (launched from the F-14D). But it would be really close. Great question.
Today with the PL-15, R-33 and Meteor other aircraft have very long range AAMs- has the US temporarily lost the advantage in long range AAMs or are they an unlikely weapon for the real world?
This one is easy to answer. The US has unparalleled stealth aircraft and that counters the threat missiles and aircraft mentioned. But the US is never interested in parity or just countering a threat. It has and will
continue to invest heavily in missile technology, and is really good at keeping secret what it actually has and will pull out on day one of the war. The threat from China and Russia is real, and the US takes their
actions very seriously. The US industry supplies the best ‘kit’ in the world and that remains a deterrent to potential adversaries.
What would you consider the top 5 BVR platforms in service today and why?
Remember what I told you in question 1, for the platform it is stealth,
sensors, speed and altitude. For BVR, in order:
- F-22 – stealth, sensors, speed and altitude
- F-35 – stealth, sensors, altitude
- Su-35 – speed, altitude, weapon loadout; a very formidable threat in many categories
4. F-15 – sensors, speed, altitude, endurance, AAM loadout (qty)
5. F/A-18E/F Block II/III – sensors, altitude, endurance, partial stealth, AAM loadout (qty). In a tie with: Typhoon – sensors, altitude, speed, limited stealth, METEOR
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