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


  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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