- Multirole combat aircraft
Not to be confused with the recent Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Competition.
A multirole combat aircraft is an aircraft designed to act in at least two different roles in combat. The primary role is usually a fighter—hence, it is as often called a multirole fighter—while the secondary role is usually air-to-surface attack. More roles are added, such as air reconnaissance, forward air control, and electronic warfare. As of the subtypes of attack missions, besides the most often air interdiction, there may be suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), or even close air support (CAS).
Strike fighter, which similarly refers to a fighter capable of attack role, for historical reasons implies putting more emphasis on the interdiction aspect.
The main motivation for developing multirole aircraft is cost reduction. A fleet of multirole aircraft, when comparing to separate fleets of dedicated aircraft, costs less to develop, to manufacture, to maintain, and to supply. Some aircraft are called swing-role, to emphasize the ability of a quick role change, either at short notice, or even within the same mission.
History of the term
Multi-Role[n 1] Combat Aircraft was the title of a multinational European project in 1968 that became the Panavia Tornado aircraft. During its development, the project had also been briefly called Multi-Role Aircraft (MRA). The same aircraft is now referred to as the Tornado IDS, or InterDictor/Strike, to differentiate it from a later aircraft based on essentially the same airframe, known as Panavia Tornado ADV or air-defence variant, with two types having diverged from an initial design presumably intended to perform both missions.
Listed below are examples of multirole combat aircraft and the country where they have been developed:
Region Country of origin Aircraft Notes Europe United Kingdom
Panavia Tornado The original aircraft to have the word "Multi-Role" in its official description. United Kingdom
Eurofighter Typhoon Described as a "highly agile Air Superiority and Air-to-Surface, multi-role/swing-role fighter" by the manufacturers and users. France Dassault Mirage 2000 Dassault Rafale Described as a fully "omnirole" fighter by Dassault Sweden Saab JAS 39 Gripen JAS comes from Jakt ("fighter"), Attack, Spaning ("reconnaissance") Russia Mikoyan MiG-29M Multirole development of MiG-29 Sukhoi Su-30M Multirole development of Su-27PU/Su-30 Sukhoi Su-35S 4++ generation development of Su-27M/Su-35 Mikoyan MiG-35 4++ generation development of MiG-29M and MiG-29K Sukhoi PAK FA Sukhoi T-50 prototype first flew in 2010 North America United States McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II American 3rd generation fighter/interceptor. McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle The F-15E is a multirole fighter derived from the F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter. It is used by the United States Air Force other U.S. allies like Israel, South Korea, Singapore & Saudi Arabia. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon The F-16 is a multirole fighter used by many members of NATO and other U.S. allies McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet The 'A' in "F/A" explicitly denotes the joint Attack role of the F/A-18 ('F' = Fighter) NATO
F-35 Lightning II Asia Japan Mitsubishi F-2 Developed from F-16 Block 40 Republic of China (Taiwan) AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo People's Republic of China Chengdu J-7 Reverse engineered from MiG-21F-13 Shenyang J-8 Xian JH-7A Shenyang J-11 Reverse engineered from Sukhoi Su-27SK Chengdu J-10 Chengdu J-20 Prototype first flown in 2011 People's Republic of China
JF-17 Thunder Previously known as Super Seven People's Republic of China
Sukhoi Su-30MKK Used by the PLA Air Force ('K' = Kitayski, China) India HAL Tejas Previously known as LCA. AMCA Indian fifth generation multirole fighter. India
Sukhoi Su-30MKI Used by the Indian Air Force.
('I' = INDIA)
Sukhoi/HAL FGFA Derivative of PAK FA (T-50).
- Attack aircraft
- Interceptor aircraft
- Tactical bomber
- ^ Cambridge Dictionary only lists "multirole", and not "multi-role".
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