Was this fighter better than the Typhoon? MBB VFW-Fokker Delta Canard Tactical Fighter

In the late 1970s, West Germany wanted a new Air Superiority fighter. Though Britain tried to drag European fighter talks towards aircraft comprised by short take-off and vertical landing, West Germany was not convinced. They want a fast agile fighter that could dogfight with a new breed of ultra-manoeuvrable Soviet fighters that would soon be on their doorstep, the MiG-29 and Su-27. Western intelligence was well aware of the development of this aircraft, and how they would utterly outmatch NATO’s fighter force that largely consisted of Phantoms, Lightnings and Starfighters.

A design was created by the companies that had created the Bf 109 and Fw 190 of wartime fame (Focke-Wulf was part of VFW) as well as the great Fokker fighters of World War I. The result was a formidable prospect, with thrust vectored nozzles and capable of post-stall flight beyond 90 degrees angle of attack. The particular style of belly intake, thrust vectoring and twin tail configuration would have made it a far superior low-speed angles fighter’ to today’s Typhoon, but it would also have been no slouch in the high-speed regime with its distinctive cranked delta. Its very low wing loading would have provided spectacular instantaneous turn rates, and excellent short-field performance.

Its engine compressor face was more buried from prying radar waves than the later Typhoon’s. Though the latter may have inherited the s-shaped intake duct from this design, diagrams appear to show a greater degree of line-of-sight shielding on the German-Dutch design. With its vectored thrust and high angle of attack capabilities, it may also have been adaptable into a carrier aircraft, something which though proposed was never seriously viable for the Typhoon.

The MiG 1.42

Fundamental to judging this design is the different philosophies of obtaining a snap off-boresight missile shot: some designs emphasise moving the entire aircraft, like the F-22, others (such as Typhoon) using an off-boresight cueing system with agile missiles. As efforts to integrate the Scorpion helmet cueing system onto the F-22 have shown, the optimum solution for nations with a big enough budget, is both. It should also be added that Typhoon, though a superb dogfighter, is optimised for the beyond visual range where situational awareness, acceleration and specific excess power and combat persistence are more important than post-stall manoeuvrability. Still, this design offers a fascinating glimpse into contemporary thinking and bears interesting comparison with the Soviet MiG studies for an advanced tactical fighter.

This German-Dutch study would feed into what eventually became the Eurofighter Typhoon.

We asked a Typhoon combat veteran and a technical advisor their opinions on the above here

3 comments

  1. Barry Larking

    This is most interesting. While the proof is getting any design into the air, this project fulfils one of the oldest adages – if it looks good than it just might be. Many thanks.

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