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Multirole combat aircraft

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Title: Multirole combat aircraft  
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Subject: List of supersonic aircraft, Chengdu J-10, List of active United Kingdom military aircraft, Egyptian Air Force, List of megaprojects
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Multirole combat aircraft

An F/A-18E Super Hornet on a mission in 2013.

A multirole combat aircraft is a military aircraft intended to perform different roles in combat.[1] A multirole fighter is a multirole combat aircraft which is, at the same time, also a fighter aircraft; in other words, an aircraft whose various roles include, among others, the role of air-to-air combat.


The Panavia Tornado program was historically the first bearer of such designation.

The first use of the term was by the multinational European project named Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, which was formed in 1968 to produce an aircraft capable of tactical strike, air reconnaissance, air defense, and maritime roles. The design was aimed to replace a multitude of different types in the cooperating air forces. The project produced the Panavia Tornado, which used the same basic design to undertake a variety of roles, the Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike) variant and later the Panavia Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant).

Although the term "multirole aircraft" may be relatively novel, certain airframes in history have proven versatile to multiple roles. In particular the Ju 88 was renowned in Germany for being a "jack-of-all-trades", capable of performing as a bomber, dive bomber, fighter, night fighter, and so on, much as the British de Havilland Mosquito did as a fast bomber/strike aircraft, reconnaissance, and night fighter.


The term had originally been reserved for aircraft designed with the aim of using a common airframe for multiple tasks where the same basic airframe is adapted to a number of differing roles. Multirole has also been applied to one aircraft with both major roles, for example:

More roles can be added, such as air reconnaissance, forward air control, and electronic warfare. Attack missions include the subtypes air interdiction, suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), and close air support (CAS).

The main motivation for developing multirole aircraft is cost reduction in using a common airframe.


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. According to the Military Dictionary : "the ability to employ a multi-role aircraft for multiple purposes during the same mission."[2]

According to BAE Systems, "an aircraft that can accomplish both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles on the same mission and swing between these roles instantly offers true flexibility. This reduces cost, increases effectiveness and enhances interoperability with allied air forces".[3]

"Capability also offers considerable cost-of-ownership benefits to and operational commanders."[4]



Country Manufacturer Aircraft Introduced Variants
 China Chengdu J-10 2003 J-10B
 France Dassault Mirage 2000 1982 N/D
Rafale 1986
 India HAL/Sukhoi Sukhoi Su-30MKI 1998
HAL HAL Tejas 2013 (Prototype Stage) Tejas Mark 2
 Japan Mitsubishi F-2 2000 F-2A/B
 South Korea KAI T-50 Golden Eagle 2011 T-50, TA-50, FA-50
JF-17 Thunder 2007
 Soviet Union
Mikoyan MiG-29 1983 M, K
Sukhoi Su-35 2008 Su-35S
 Sweden Saab JAS 39 Gripen 1997
 United Kingdom
Panavia Tornado IDS 1979 Tornado ADV
 United Kingdom
Eurofighter Typhoon 2003
 United States General Dynamics
(Lockheed Martin)
F-16 Fighting Falcon 1978
McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet 1983 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

See also


  1. ^; both Wiktionary and Cambridge Dictionary only list "multirole", and not "multi-role".
  2. ^ Definition Of: swing-role
  3. ^ BAE SYSTEMS delivers Swing Role Radar capability to Eurofighter Typhoon
  4. ^ Eurofighter Typhoon, Mission configuration, Swing Role
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