TOPGUN instructor (and former F-14/F/A-18 crew) assesses Tomcat versus Meteor-armed Typhoon fight & list top 5 BVR fighters 2020

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:

  1. F-22 – stealth, sensors, speed and altitude
  2. F-35 – stealth, sensors, altitude
  3. 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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  1. Klebert L. Hall

    If you guys in the UK don’t think a Typhoon/Meteor should always beat a Tomcat/Phoenix, you should detain and publicly execute everyone involved in the Typhoon and Meteor programs.

    The US equipment are 50 year old designs…


    • John Miles

      The F-15 is no spring chicken either, yet the EX is still attracting attention. I confess to having entertained the notion that the USA would, rather than go for updated F-15’s, do a ‘Harrier’ and manufacture a bespoke version of the Eurofighter under license.

    • emeraldharvest

      ha! to be fair its from a US made man in the navy, of course he is going to want to lean towards Tomcat and give it a chance, the fact he still went with Typhoon speaks volumes I would say.

      These legacy US systems like the F-14/F-15/AMRAAM/Phoenix will not likely see parity with the Typhoon for the foreseeable future, even without the growth and upgrades coming to the Typhoon as it evolves. Typhoon Praetorian/Centurion with 2020 digital stealth and eventually, the Mk.2 AESA should put it at the top of air supremacy until the Tempest arrives.

  2. brian

    The Typhoon would always be defending because of its short legs.
    But nice hypothetical assessment, but in reality a challenging problem.
    Today’s current battle space would involve many other assets & counter assets, manned & unmanned.
    It would be interesting to see how a modern attack would be made today with these new assets.

    • John Miles

      For any given RCS or overall mass, the Typhoon has the longer range. It has short legs when it runs clean to minimise detection; a feat the F-14 is unable to approach let alone match.
      Even before the Typhoon receives its AESA radar, it is a mighty air superiority asset. By possessing the lowest RCS of any 4+ generation fighter, and flying a greater percentage of the F-22 flight envelope than any other sub 1m^2 RCS fighter, it is, outright, the best missile truck in support of the F-22.
      Google: “I Went to War Against Stealth Fighters—And Lost Badly”

  3. John Miles

    Given that, in 2010, two Spanish Eurofighters bested eight F-15’s (The Grim Reapers) at the DACT trials, being aircraft of similar performance and radar to the F-14, the balance of any fight between the Typhoon and F-14 will run decisively in the Typhoons favour. And that means the present Captor M version of the Eurofighter.

    • emeraldharvest

      No doubt, also, in terms of range I would like to see the Typhoon effectively take down an entire flight of F-15/F-14’s just by knocking out the Tanker support well beyond the effective range of either of those legacy aircraft. The US flight would end up ditched in the water! 😀

  4. HB

    Doesn’t make sense Doug would rate the F-15 and Su-35 higher than the Typhoon in BVR, esp. considering:
    1. The Typhoon has a far further reaching missile in the Meteor than both
    2. The Typhoon has a higher service ceiling than both
    3. The Typhoon has a lower RCS than both
    4. The Typhoon is far more capable of maneuvering at high altitude than both
    5. The Typhoon can cruise further & faster than both (super cruise)

    Litterally nothing speaks for the F-15 being better or even close to equal to the Typhoon in terms of BVR, the only advantage it has it the ability to chug a long a few extra missiles, but at a significant performance penalty.

    • Hush Kit

      “Litterally nothing speaks for the F-15 being better or even close to equal to the Typhoon in terms of BVR, the only advantage it has it the ability to chug a long a few extra missiles, but at a significant performance penalty.” It does have better radar, more computing power and better endurance.

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