Top modern fighter aircrafts with the largest combat radius

Military expert Vladimir Lytkin has an analysis, in which he gives a list of fighters capable of reaching the longest combat range.

Author Vladimir Litkin has given a list of top modern fighters with the longest range without having to refuel, as well as without using additional external oil tanks.

From the very beginning, the expert decided that he would look primarily at the combat radius of the aircraft, not the actual range.

Actual range is the distance an aircraft can fly in a given state of the atmosphere, taking into account the fuel consumption for launch, take-off, flight, landing and motion, including fuel reserves.

Whereas the combat radius is the distance at which the fighter can solve the assigned task with the fuel reserve set up and return to the base, here are the top fighters with the combat radius. biggest.

According to previously published data, the combat radius of the Su-57 stealth fighter when flying at subsonic speeds is 2,064 km, while at supersonic speeds it still reaches 1,050 km.

su-57 fighter aircraft
su-57 fighter aircraft

The above parameter far exceeds the similar indicators of the US-made F-35 fighter, respectively 1,080 and 760 km. For another American fighter, the F-22, the numbers are 1,250 and 760 km.

In addition, the combat radius of the Su-57, if not ignoring any other fourth-generation fighters, is indeed the largest. At least this was stated with data taken from the early stage AL-41F1S engine.

The actual range of the Su-57 is announced to be 4,300 km without an additional fuel tank, in the case of an auxiliary oil tank, it can reach 5,500 km.

Next is the F-15 Eagle, this fighter was created by the US in the 1970s, it was originally designed as an air superiority fighter, and is still in service in many countries around the world.

The combat radius of the F-15 is 1,900 km, the second largest among modern fighters. According to this indicator, the F-15 is far ahead of the fifth generation fighters, the F-35 and the F-22. At the same time, the actual flight range of the F-15 is 5,600 km.

F-15E aircraft
F-15E aircraft

The F-15 is built in a conventional aerodynamic configuration, with a maximum take-off weight of 30.9 tons, a maximum speed of up to 2,700 km/h (Mach 2.5).

This fighter is equipped with a 20mm M61 Vulcan automatic cannon with a base of 940 rounds and 11 suspension points with a total weapon weight of up to 7.3 tons.

Until now, although very old, but the F-15 and its improvements are still considered one of the best fighters in the world.

In mid-July 2020, the US Department of Defense placed an order for an upgraded version of the F-15EX, in total, they plan to buy 144 modernized fighter aircraft to serve as a platform to carry hypersonic weapons.

Third place belongs to Russia’s 4.5-generation fighter Su-35S, this multi-role fighter just appeared in the service of the Russian aerospace force a short time ago.

Su-35 fighter aircraft
Su-35 fighter aircraft

According to data from open sources, the Russian fighter has a combat radius of about 1,500 km. Moreover, its actual range is 3,600 km.

The aircraft itself is positioned as a super-maneuverable fighter with thrust vectoring control (TVC), it is capable of carrying a combat payload of up to 8 tons.

In terms of general characteristics, the Su-35S is very close to the fifth-generation fighter, except for the radar scattering technology. In fact, the Su-35 is a transitional link from the Su-27 to the Su-57.

The Su-35 is designed to solve the tasks of conquering and maintaining air superiority, providing ground fire support in conflicts of all sizes, and isolating the combat zone.

Rafale has a maximum mission radius of about 1,700 km (920 nmi). The data on wiki can often be unreliable; as in this case, the source for the ‘1,850+ km with 2 SCALP-EG and 2 AAMs’ is missing.

indian air force Rafale

The closest official source of Rafale having that kind of range is from Dassault’s presentation to Brazil for F-X2 competition. It shows the maximum mission radius of 920 nmi (1,700 km) with 3 External Fuel tanks (2,000 L) and CFTs (2x 1,150 L or 303 US gallon) and this is with 6 AA missiles and no AG weapon. With AG weapons, the range actually decreases to 790 nmi.

F-X2 - Presentation Rafale Consortium 
F-X2 – Presentation Rafale Consortium

In case you’re wondering if this range is with CFTs. Besides the obvious (proximity to the range on wiki with CFTs). We also have F-18 Super Hornet’s range as reference. Rafale carries 4,750 kg internal fuel i.e. 2,000 kg less than F-18E (6,780 kg). Both are carrying 3 EFTs. The Super Hornet is having 3x 480 gallon (1,817 L) EFTs. So the only way for Rafale to compensate its smaller internal fuel load, let alone have greater range is to carry 2 CFTs (about 2,000 kg fuel).

The 920 nmi range is with optimal flight profile (High-High-High) and with maximum fuel load. In other words, this mission radius is a lot closer to the ferry range than to a standard combat radius. A standard and practical combat radius include a High-low-low-High profile.

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