Why are some missiles incompatible with some aircraft? If fighter A has better radar and missiles than fighter B, then why isn't it possible to simply integrate the better radar and missiles into fighter B?

  • $\begingroup$ Define what you mean by “better” $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2019 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ A glossary of acronyms would already help. $\endgroup$
    – bogl
    Mar 22, 2019 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


Several potential reasons.

  • The aircraft may lack the electronics or software to operate the weapon.
  • The missile may not have the required connectors and other hardware to interface with the aircraft

This prevents many Russian/Soviet style weapons from being used on American aircraft. It also prevents a lot of French weapons from working on aircraft being built anywhere else.

This was a major factor in the Dutch decision to purchase the F-16 instead of the Mirage 2000, as the latter would have meant not just replacing their aircraft but also replacing most their entire inventory of missiles, rockets, bombs, and everything else (and all the maintenance equipment).

Sometimes the differences are small enough that they can be retrofitted, for example if it's only a small software change. Sometimes it requires new hardpoints to be added to the aircraft, or adapters to be added to existing hardpoints. And sometimes the changes are just too great to make them worthwhile. With aircraft that use internal storage (like the F-35) an additional factor is the available space in the weapons bays.

  • $\begingroup$ Presumably, Russian arms manufacturers aren't allowed to sell to the US Air Force and vice versa. That would be much more significant than any hardware incompatibility. $\endgroup$ Mar 21, 2019 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby there's countries using both Russian and US equipment. They've a hard time integrating the disparate systems but that's not always a problem (e.g. Poland and Hungary slowly switching from one to the other, Turkey using some Russian stuff in isolated areas where the disparaties aren't problematic, Israel having some captured Soviet era equipment in service that they've upgraded with their own components to fit it into their overall system). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Mar 22, 2019 at 4:37