Rafale Vs F/A-18 Super Hornet: which one between Rafale and ‘Rhino’ is the better multirole fighter aircraft?

Rafale Vs F/A-18 Super Hornet: which one between Rafale and ‘Rhino’ is the better multirole fighter aircraft?

By Dario Leone
Sep 25 2020
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A lot of people have a misconception of F/A-18 Super Hornet being older. If anything the Super Hornet Block III is a more modern design than Rafale.

In December 2000, the French Naval Aviation (Aéronavale), the air arm of the French Navy, received its first two Rafale M fighters. On May 18 the following year, the squadron Flottille 12F, which had previously operated the F-8 Crusader, became the first squadron to operate the Rafale after it was officially re-activated prior to the delivery of the sixth Rafale.

The Rafale M is the only non-US fighter type cleared to operate from the decks of US carriers, using catapults and their arresting gear, operating alongside US Navy’s squadrons flying the Boeing F/A-18E/F which soon will receive the latest variant of the Rhino (as the F/A-18E/F is dubbed by its aircrews), the Super Hornet Block III.

But which is the better between the Rafale and the Super Hornet Block III?

‘First, a lot of people have a misconception of F-18 Super Hornet being older,’ Abhirup Sengupta, an aviation expert, explains on Quora. ‘If anything the Super Hornet Block III is a more modern design than Rafale, you can see it in the cockpit, F-18E having bigger 19″ touchscreen display that can be configured based on mission.

VFA-2 F/A-18F
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-2 Bounty Hunters, NE100 / 166804 / 2016

‘In air-air, Rafale’s Meteor gives it longer range than even AIM-120D. The ramjet provides longer burn-time and therefore, greater NEZ. Both AIM-9x and MICA IR use Imaging IR seekers and have similar off-boresight capabilities.’

Sengupta continues;

‘The Super Hornet has a bigger and more powerful radar. The APG-79 is about 60% bigger than RBE2-AA which would equate to substantial difference in performance.

‘Both have capable Integrated EW suites with their own advantages. The F-18E is one of the few 4th gen. capable of using its AESA radar for EW operations and the ALQ-214(v)4 has greater RF coverage today.

‘That being said, Meteor’s ramjet is a major advantage in air combat and will give Rafale considerable advantage until AIM-260 JATM becomes operational.

Rafale Vs F/A-18 Super Hornet: which one between Rafale and ‘Rhino’ is the better multirole fighter aircraft?

‘In air-ground, Rafale is mostly limited to French weapons which are expensive and not as versatile. For instance, HARMs give F-18E far better ability to target enemy radars.

‘The AGM-88E HARMs, JSOW, GBU-53 Storm Breaker and LRASM along with ability to carry decoys like MALD-J give F-18E much better strike capability overall, especially in SEAD role.’

Sengupta concludes;

‘There’s not a large difference in their overall performance. The F-18 Super Hornet’s major advantage is that it provides similar performance at much lower cost.

‘With Meteor Rafale is more potent in air combat until 2022 while Super Hornet is a better multirole platform. With AIM-260 it’ll be a different game where Super Hornet can fully exploit its superior radar.’

F/A-18 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Sheldon Rowley and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard / U.S. Navy


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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