Multirole combat aircraft
A multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) is a military airplane designed for more than one purpose. A multirole fighter is a multirole combat aircraft that can be used to attack enemy airplanes.
The term "multirole" is the ability for the airplane to perform more than one task or combat role. Many times airplanes will be designed for one task, and later someone will make small changes to the airplane to perform a different task. For example, the F-15 Eagle was first designed as an air superiority fighter to destroy other enemy fighters. Many years later its designers made changes to allow it to carry bombs and missiles and attack targets on the ground.
There are many roles that combat airplanes may fill:
- Air superiority—air-to-air combat with enemy fighters
- Ground attack—attacking ground-based targets with bombs, missiles, or guns
- Strategic bombing—bombing large targets such as factories and cities to hurt an enemy's economy and its ability to fight a war
- Aerial reconnaissance—airplane-based observation of military targets such as enemy troops, buildings, or bridges
- Electronic warfare (EW)—confusing or blinding enemy defenses such as radar and ground-to-air missiles to help other attacks succeed
- Air interdiction—Destroying enemy roads, railroads, and supply lines to prevent supplies from reaching enemy troops
- Supression of enemy air defense (SEAD)—Similar to electronic warfare, except destroying the defenses instead of confusing or blinding them
- Close air support (CAS)—Helping friendly ground troops by destroying enemy ground forces
- Forward air control (FAC)—Observing and directing airplanes performing close air support to make sure they destroy the enemy and avoid friendly troops