The Eurofighter program’s origins bear many similarities to those of the French Dassault Rafale, with both programs having originated in the 1980s and the two having been built for a near identical role. Indeed, France’s early participation in the Eurofighter program had some influence on the final design of its own twin engine fighter. Both platforms were built in relatively small numbers by countries hardly known for the cost effectiveness of their military hardware, and both were designed to bridge the roles of heavy and light fighters rather than invest in two separate platforms as larger producers such as the United States was capable of doing. The Eurofighter is as a result the only platform which can rival the Rafale in cost, and has similar capabilities. While it is significantly faster, it lacks the Rafale’s range and payload. These are nevertheless formidable and far exceed the capabilities of the vast majority of light fighters, though this comes at a significant cost both operational and acquisitional.
The Eurofighter’s performance in air to air combat during wargames has left much to be desired relative to the Rafale. While the Rafale has in the past bested the F-22 and F-15, the Eurofighter has struggled even against a standard light F-16 fighter in war games. How much of this was attributed to the high standards of French pilots relative to those of Eurofighter operators, particularly the British Royal Air Force, was however uncertain. Whereas French Rafales often triumphed over the finest heavy platforms of the U.S. Air Force, F-22 Raptors included, British Eurofighters could hardly put up a fight against and lost overwhelmingly to light Pakistani operated F-16s - much less against India's elite Su-30MKI fighters. Despite being prized for their survivability, the fighters have also proven vulnerable to even the most makeshift of air defences during operations over Yemen. While its performance record has left something to be desired, the Eurofighter nevertheless maintains a respectable thrust/weight ratio, a long range and a near unrivalled climb rate. Much like the Rafale however, it's cost has made it unattractive on export markets with only oil rich Arabian gulf states willing to purchase the ludicrous platform outside Europe itself - in part to cement their defence ties with European states and particularity with Britain.
A major advantage of the Eurofighter is its ability to operate U.S. made air to air missiles, which in many ways exceed the capabilities of their European counterparts. With the Eurofighter already operating the 75km range AIM-120B, the fighter could potentially be modified to operate the formidable 180km range AIM-120D in future. While it is uncertain whether the United States would permit such sales, even to its close European partners, it would make the Eurofighters far more capable platforms in beyond visual range combat. Alongside the AIM-120, the Eurofighters are also able to operate the MBDA Meteor, a 100km range radar guided platform with extremely levels of manoeuvrability exceeding those of U.S. counterparts. Beyond visual range combat capabilities are particularly critical considering the Eurofighter's somewhat poor performance record in war games simulating visual range engagements - as the fighters will need to rely heavily on neutralising adversaries at range.
Continued in Part Five