multipurpose fighter


January 26, 2022

A multipurpose (or multirole) fighter is a military jet aircraft intended to perform different combat roles. A multipurpose fighter is a combat aircraft that can simultaneously perform fighter actions in addition to other operations such as ground attack and air-to-air types of operations.


The term "Multipurpose" originated in certain aircraft designed to use the same common base for multiple missions, the basic design being adapted to the type of use. The basic motivation for the development of multipurpose aircraft concerns the cost reduction of using the common base. With development, more uses were added, such as aerial reconnaissance, advanced air control, and electronic warfare aircraft. Attack missions include air interdiction, SEAD, and close air support subtypes. Multipurpose can also be applied to aircraft with two main roles, primary for air-to-air combat, secondary for fighter-bomber missions. However, those that have an emphasis on air combat are usually considered as air supremacy fighters and usually perform only this operational type, even though they are theoretically capable of use for ground attack. A good example concerns the Grumman F-14 Tomcat comparable to the F/A-18 Hornet; The F-14 was originally conceived as an air superiority fighter and aircraft interception for fleet defense, with some later variants (in the case of the F-14 B) having the ability to perform ground attack, while the F/A-18 was designed for ground attack as a limited capability to defend itself and other air-to-air aircraft.

Swing-role - Instant Change

Some aircraft are called swing-role - "Instant Change", as there is an emphasis on rapid operational change, for a short period or even within the mission. According to the Military Dictionary: "The ability of a multipurpose aircraft concerns multiple purposes during the same mission." The BAE Systems definition: "An aircraft that can perform both air-to-air and air-to-surface operations in the same mission, changing between these operational types instantly, offering true flexibility. This reduces costs, increases effectiveness and increases interoperability with allied air forces".According to Eurofighter: "Ability to offer considerable cost-effectiveness to operational commands."


While the term "multipurpose fighter" is relatively new, certain designs in history have proven versatility in multiple uses. In particular the Junkers Ju 88 was recognized in Germany as the "jack of all trades", capable of carrying out missions such as bomber, dive bomber, fighter, night fighter, etc.; as well as the British De Havilland Mosquito carried out fast bomber, reconnaissance and night fighter operations. The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II built by McDonnell Douglas also falls within the definition of multipurpose aircraft due to its various configurations based on the basic design. Such configurations were used in air-to-air, fighter-bomber, reconnaissance and air defense suppression operations. The first use of the term by a European multinational project occurred with the "Multi-Role Combat Aircraft", which was formed in 1968 to produce an aircraft capable of tactical bombing, aerial reconnaissance, interception and maritime operations. The design was intended to replace the wide range of different types of aircraft cooperating in the air forces. The project produced the Panavia Tornado, which used a basic design to perform a variety of functions, and the Tornado IDS (interceptor) and Panavia Tornado ADV air defense variants were introduced. By contrast, the F-15 Eagle was another fighter designed for air superiority and interception, not intended for ground-attack use, but its design resulted in the F-15E Strik.

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