Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Dassault Rafale Comparison Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Dassault Rafale | Specifications, Cost, Range ,Power

F-35 vs Rafale

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Dassault Rafale
F-35 and Rafale

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Let's have a look at some specifications of these jets first. 

  1. F-35 was first introduced in 2015
  2. 35 jets of all variants have been built so far with a per-unit cost of $ 85 m for F-35a. Operated by a crew of 1, the Aircraft's empty weight is 29,000 lb with a maximum take-off weight of 70,000 pounds. 
  3. The jet is powered by a single Jet engine producing 43,000 pounds of thrust. The aircraft's top speed is 1,200 mph with a maximum range of 1,380 miles. The combat radius of the fighter jet is around 874 miles. 
  4. The aircraft comes with 6 external Hardpoints and two internal bays. The jet is armed with a 25 mm rotary cannon with 180 rounds. 

 Dassault Rafale

  1. On the other hand, Rafale was first rolled out in 2001. 
  2. Around 164 jets have been built so far. 
  3. The per-unit cost of the aircraft is around $70M. Operated by a crew of 1, the aircraft comes in a weight of 21,720 lb with a maximum take-off weight of around 54,000 pounds. 
  4. The aircraft is powered by 2 turbofan engines generating 33,720 pounds of thrust combined. The jet can reach a top speed of 1,188 mph with a maximum range of 2,299 miles. 
  5. The combat radius of the aircraft is 1,151miles. 
  6. The fighter jet is equipped with 14 Hardpoints in addition to a 30 mm autocannon with 125 rounds. 










29,000 lb (13,154 kg)

21,720 lb (9,850 kg)

Take-off Weight

70,000 lb (31800 kg)

54,000 (24 500 kg)

Engine Power

43,000 lbf

33,720 lbf

Maximum Speed

1200 mph (1930 km/h)

1188 mph (1912 km/h)


1380 mi (2220 km)

2299 mi (3700 km)

Combat Radius

874 mi (1407 km)

1151 mi (1852 km)


25 mm(180 Rounds)

30 mm (125 Rounds)

F-35 Specification

1. Power

F-35 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine, which produces 43,000 pounds of thrust with a full afterburner. The aircraft can fly at a top speed of Mach 1.6. The jet has a combat radius of 770 miles. 

The aircraft's service ceiling is more than 50,000 feet. However, the rate of climb of the jet is classified. On the other hand, Rafale is powered by 2 after-burning turbofan engines generating 33,720 pounds of thrust combined. With the help of these engines, the jet can gain the top speed of Mach 1.8. The aircraft has a combat radius of 1,151 miles. 

2. Thrust-to-Weight ratio

The jet has a service ceiling of 50,000 feet with a rate of climb around 1000 ft/s. With smaller wings and inferior thrust-to-weight ratio, the early F-35 pilots found it nearly impossible to even engage with F-16. Since then Lockheed Martin worked with pilot straining and changed the configuration of the jet. This resulted in increased turn rate, tighter turning radius, and improved nose pointing ability at low speed. 

3. Aerodynamic

F-35 has the ability to slow down during a turn and has excellent post-stall recovery. In contrast, Rafale has lead in this category. The aircraft has 9 Gs maneuverability with a high angle of attack. Canard wings are used to improve maneuverability. The aircraft is also aerodynamically clean with two wingtip missiles. Close-coupled delta canard wings offer a significantly higher maximum lift. The fighter jet has good post-stall maneuverability as well. 

4. Stealth Capabilities

The F-35 has been designed to have a low radar cross-section with the help of aircraft shape and the use of stealthy radar absorbent materials. Stealth gives F-35 the ability to elude or greatly complicate an enemy's ability to find and destroy an aircraft using a combination of design, tactics, and technology. 

The stealth capabilities in the F-35 are unprecedented in military aviation. For perspective, F-35's radar cross-section is 0.005 to 0.3 m2, which is about the size of a golf ball. On the other hand, Rafale is not a full aspect related to aircraft. However, the jet was designed for reduced radar cross-section and infrared signature. The fighter jet has an RCS of 0.5 to 2 m2. The aircraft has reduced RCS due to its smaller tail fin, compact fuselage, engine air inlets, and extensive use of composite materials. 70% of the jet's surface area is made with composite materials. 

5. Radar and Communications 

However, many of the features designed to reduce the visibility to threats, remain classified. F-35 has the most advanced radar and communications suite built to date. It will also be the first fighter to possess a satellite-linked communications capability. F-35's advanced sensor fusion enables pilots to draw on information from all of their onboard sensors to create a single integrated picture of the battlefield. All of the information gathered is then automatically send to other pilots and the base as well. F-35 is equipped with the most advanced APG-81 radar used in any American aircraft to date. 

The radar is designed to enable F-35 pilots to track at distance over 143 mi with a locking distance of 93 miles. The aircraft is equipped with a Distributed Aperture and Electro-optical targeting system. The jet's Helmet Mounted Display System provides pilots with unprecedented situational awareness. The information is projected on the helmet's visor which includes airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information, and warnings. 

In contrast, Rafale is equipped with passive electronically scanned multi-mode radar. Which is capable to achieve an increased level of situational awareness through earlier target detection. The radar projects real-time 3D maps for terrain-following and high-resolution ground maps for navigation and targeting. The radar can detect a range of 124 miles. To enable the jet to perform in the air supremacy role, it includes several passive sensor systems. 

The front sector electro-optical system is completely integrated within the aircraft and can operate both in visible and infrared wavelengths. This sensor enables the deployment of infrared missiles beyond visual range distances. it can also be used for detecting and identifying airborne, ground, and sea targets. 

Both fighter jets are equally equipped with beyond and within visual range weaponry. F-35 is armed with an internally mounted 25mm equalizer gun with 182 rounds in addition to an external pod with 220 rounds. The aircraft has two internal bays and 6 external hardpoints with a weapon payload of 9 tons. The two outer hardpoints can carry Aim-9xsidewinder and AIM-132 short-range air to air missiles. The other pylons can carry AIM 120 missiles, Joint Air to surface standoff missiles, and guided bombs. 

The external pylons can carry missiles, bombs, and external fuel tanks. There is a total of four weapons stations between the two internal bays. Two of these can carry air to surface missiles or bombs. The other two stations are for smaller weapons. The jet will be armed with solid-state lasers, which can burn enemy missiles and other aircraft out of the sky. The aircraft will also carry hypersonic missiles. On the other hand, Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9 tons on its 14 hardpoints. The range of weapons includes air to air, air to ground, air to sea, guided, and unguided bombs. 

For a strategic mission, the jet can deliver a storm Shadow standoff nuclear missile. The aircraft can also carry Meteor beyond visual range air to air missiles. The jet can fire a precision-guided bomb, which has both GPS and inertial guidance. The aircraft has a twin-gun pod and Nexter 30mm cannon, which can fire 2,500 rounds a minute. The jet is equipped with laser designation pods for laser guidance of air to ground missiles. 

Overall F-35 is a better aircraft but there are a lot of technical problems before it is fully operational. F-35 is a stealth plane which is its main advantage. Both Planes almost use the same range of weaponry. F-35 has slightly better radar with excellent sensors and an avionics suite. But in most of the scenarios, F-35 will detect Rafale first due to its lower RCS, better radar, and capable sensors. But in a close 1 on 1 fight F-35 doesn't stand a chance against Rafale due to its better maneuverability and better thrust-to-weight ratio. 

However, with the advent of helmet-mounted display and high off-boresight missiles, the maneuverability advantage has greatly diminished. 

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