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.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.’
Photo credit: Sheldon Rowley and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard / U.S. Navy