The Dassault Rafale is the latest generation multi-role fighter produced by the French company Dassault Aviation. The Rafale is a twin-engined delta wing 4.5th generation fighter similar in concept to the Eurofighter Typhoon, that entered service with the French Air Force ( Armee de l’Air ) and the French Navy ( Marine Nationale ).
Development started in the mid 1970s, after an order for a high performance fighter was issued by both the French Air Force and Navy. July 4, 1986, marked the maiden flight of the Rafale A, a technology demonstrator fitted with the General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofans used on the American F/A-18 Hornet. Orders for the new fighter were placed in 1988 for three variants:
Rafale C (Chasseur) – single seat fighter; first flight May 19,1991
Rafale B (Biplace) – two-seat fighter; first flight December 12,1993
Rafale M (Marine) – single seat carrier based fighter; first flight April 30, 1991
These variants were fitted with the French Snecma M88 afterburning turbofans. The technology demonstrator Rafale A was flown using the GE engines because the M88’s development was not finished at the time. The engine is capable of 50 kN of thrust (11,250 lbf) and 75 kN (17,000 lbf) with full afterburner.
Dassault Rafale carrier operations
The term used by the French for this fighter is “omnirole”. This is because Dassault wanted to differentiate their fighter from the others, and also because the Rafale was intended to replace most of the fighters used by the French Air Force and Navy.
The Rafale carries, for the first time in aviation history, an integrated electronic survival system named SPECTRA which features a software-based virtual stealth technology. The SPECTRA electronic warfare system, jointly developed by Thales and EADS France, provides the aircraft with the highest survivability assets against airborne and ground threats. The cockpit has Hands-On Throttle And Stick control (HOTAS). The cockpit is equipped with a head-up, wide-angle holographic display from Thales Avionique, which provides aircraft control data, mission data and firing cues. Also, the aircraft can carry up to 9 tonnes of payload on 14 hardpoints(the Rafale M only has 13 hardpoints). The range of weapons includes: Mica, Magic, Sidewinder, ASRAAM and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; Apache, AS30L, ALARM, HARM, Maverick and PGM100 air-to-ground missiles; and Exocet / AM39, Penguin 3 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The Rafale was first deployed into action in 2002 during Operation Heracles, where Rafales were deployed from the Charales de Gaulle aircraft carrier and flew over Afghanistan. In March 2007, three French Air Force and three Navy Rafale fighters began deployment in Tajikistan in support of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
The Rafale was expected to replace 7 aircraft by 2010. The Jaguar, Super-Etendard, Crusader, Mirage F1, Mirage 2000 C, Mirage 2000 N/D and the Mirage 4. Dassault Aviation was expecting an order for 232 aircraft. The French Air Force and Navy have ordered a total of 61 fighters so far: 36 for the Air Force and 25 for the Navy.
In July 2007 Dassault Rafale Ms landed on the US Navy Enterprise aircraft carrier during a French-American exercise
Dassault Rafale specifications
Crew: 1 or 2
Length 15.27 m (50.1 ft)
Wingspan 10.80 m (35.4 ft)
Height 5.34 m (17.4 ft)
Wing area 45.7 m² (492 ft²)
Empty weight 9,060 kg (20,000 lb)
Useful load 9,500 kg (21,000 lb)
Max takeoff weight 24,500 kg (54,000 lb)
2 x SNECMA M88-2 turbofans
Dry thrust 2 x 50 kN (11,250 lbf)
Thrust with afterburner 2 x 75 kN (17,000 lbf)
Maximum speed Mach 2 (2,130 km/h, 1,320 mph)
Range 1,800 km (970 nm, 1,100 mi)
Service ceiling 18,000 m (60,000 ft)
Rate of climb >305 m/s (60,000 ft/min)
Wing loading 326 kg/m² (83 1/3 lb/ft²)
Guns 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B cannon with 125 rounds
MICA IR/EM or
AIM-9 Sidewinder or
AIM-132 ASRAAM or
AIM-120 AMRAAM or
MBDA Meteor or
MBDA Apache or
SCALP EG or
AM 39 Exocet or
ASMP nuclear missile