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 Overall-gray jet fighter, with red, blue and white-tipped nose, overflying sea and scattered white clouds down below. The aircraft is carrying streamlined external fuel tanks and missiles under its wings, and is heading right.

An F/A-18 Hornet on a mission in 2002

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.


Tornado GR4s, 617 Squadron 2006

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.[citation needed] 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) 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 has 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. Originally the term was used for a common airframe built in a number of different variants for different 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
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China Chengdu J-10 2003 J-10B 150px
Flag of France.svg France Dassault Mirage 2000 1982 N/D Mirage.2000d.3-im.arp
Rafale 2000 Rafale 070412-N-8157C-542
Flag of India.svg India HAL/Sukhoi Sukhoi Su-30MKI 1998 SU-30MKI-g4sp - edit 2(clipped)
Tejas(Under Trials) 2013 150px
Flag of Japan.svg Japan Mitsubishi F-2 2000 Mitsubishi F-2 landing
Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
JF-17 Thunder 2007 Pakistan Air Force Chengdu JF-17 Gu
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Flag of Russia.svg Russia
Mikoyan MiG-29 1983 M, K Peruvian Air Force MiG-29 SDLP
Su-35 2008 Su-35S Sukhoi Su-35S at MAKS-2011 airshow
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden Saab JAS 39 Gripen 1997 Gripen ag1
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of Germany.png Germany
Flag of Italy.svg Italy
Panavia Tornado IDS 1979 Tornado ADV Panavia Tornado GR4 05 (4827995363)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of Germany.png Germany
Flag of Italy.svg Italy
Flag of Spain.svg Spain
Eurofighter Typhoon 2003 Typhoon f2 zj910 arp
Flag of the United States.svg United States General Dynamics
(Lockheed Martin)

_________________ McDonnell Douglas (Boeing)

F-16 Fighting Falcon 1978 F16 SCANG InFlight
F/A-18 Hornet 1983 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet FA-18-NAVY-Blue-Diamond

See alsoEdit


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