One of my friends is a Top Gun instructor. He has experience in over 20 types. He got to fly a Rafale too. When IAF had chosen Rafale, I had asked him for his opinion. His first remark was that in terms of aircraft performance, a Rafale was much more energetic than a F-18. I said, but a F-18 E/F is not a very good benchmark for this. He did not like that comment
. After a bit of calming, he explained what I have always heard, every aircraft has its forte. For example, you don't want to engage a F-18 in nose pointing ability. But, I pressed on saying that the Rafale and EF was developed later and had huge TWR advantage over the F-18 E/F which he agreed. You would see that the maneuvers Collins refers to adherent to the same aspect.
Yes, the avionics, sensor fusion, display and symbology of Rafale was a generation ahead of any fighter even until the beginning of this decade. But, not much has changed in the Rafale since its advent. So others have almost caught up. HV Thakur showcased some of the aspects of SPORT. You could see terrain maping using GPS+radar, and in flight recalculation at the AI'19 footage. Israeli/Chinese all have caught up. The US obviously has fielded the F35 whose avionics and sensor fusion is probably the current benchmark.
But the Rafale is in production and the F-35 isn't available to us. Israelis have no platform on which to build the level of sensor capability that the Rafale has. All they manage to do is add a few avionics items to F-16s or F-35s that they are provided by the USA.
What was demoed at AI'19 for the LCA SPORT was just that- a demo with non functioning pages. Impressive, but still a work in progress. I really hope to see it at that level on the MWF.
But in all respects, the airframe, sensors, sensor fusion, agility, weapons, the Rafale is the most balanced of all jets today, IMO. If the MRCA should be the last imported fighter for the IAF, my fervent hope is that it will be the Rafale.
BTW, the Rafale M has a TTL of 5000 hours, the Air Force variant is at 6000 hours. Confirmed by a French poster elsewhere.