The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Dassault described the Rafale as being an omnirole fighter. The Rafale is a multirole combat aircraft; capable of simultaneously undertaking air supremacy, interdiction, reconnaissance, and airborne nuclear deterrent missions. The Rafale is distinct from other European fighters of its era in that it is almost entirely built by one country, involving most of France's major defence contractors, such as Dassault, Thales and Safran.
In the late 1970s, the French Air Force and Navy were seeking to replace and consolidate their current fleets of aircraft. In order to reduce development costs and boost prospective sales, France entered into an arrangement with four other European nations to produce an agile multi-purpose fighter, but subsequent disagreements over workshare and differing requirements led to France's pursuit of its own development program. Dassault built a technology demonstrator which first flew in July 1986 as part of an eight-year flight-test program, paving the way for the go-ahead of the project.
The Rafale's design and production processes exploited the unprecedented advancements in software technology; these have enabled the integration of formerly individual components and combined with intelligent automated analysis processes, known collectively as data fusion. Many of the aircraft's avionics and features, such as direct voice input (DVI), the RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and the Optronique secteur frontal (OSF) infra-red search and track sensor, were indigenously developed and produced for the Rafale programme. Originally scheduled to enter service in 1996, post-Cold War budget cuts and changes in priorities contributed to significant delays to the programme.
Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. It has also been marketed for export to several countries, including selection by the Brazilian Air Force and Navy.
The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali; features such as the SPECTRA integrated defensive-aids system have been crucial advantages in these theatres. Several upgrades to the radar, engines, and avionics of the Rafale are planned to be introduced in the near-future.
The M88 turbofans are currently being upgraded to generate 13,500 lbf (60 kN) dry and 20,700 lbf (92 kN) on the afterburners.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- Rafale A: Technology demonstrator, first flew in 1986.
- Rafale D: Dassault used this designation (D for discrète) in the early 1990s to emphasize the new semi-stealthy design features.
- Rafale B F-3R: Two-seater version for the French Air Force
- Rafale C F-3R: Same as Rafale B F3-R but Single-seat version for the French Air Force.
- Rafale M F-3R: Same as Rafale C F3-R but Carrier-borne version for the French Naval Aviation, which entered service in 2001. For carrier operations, the M model has a strengthened airframe, longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude, larger tailhook between the engines, and a built-in boarding ladder. Consequently, the Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C.
- Rafale N: Originally called the Rafale BM, was a planned missile-only two-seater version for the Aéronavale. Budgetary and technical constraints have been cited as grounds for its cancellation.
- Rafale R: Reconnaissance-oriented variant of the Rafale.
- Rafale DB: Two-seater version for the Brazilian Air Force
- Rafale EB: Single-seater version for the Brazilian Air Force
- Rafale MB: Carrier based version for the Brazilian Navy
- Rafale DM: Two-seater version for the Egyptian Air Force
- Rafale EM: Single-seater version for the Egyptian Air Force
- Rafale DH: Two-seater version for the Indian Air Force
- Rafale EH: Single-seater version for the Indian Air Force
- Rafale MH: Carrier based version for the Indian Navy.
- Rafale B/C/M F4: This variant will have upgraded radar (F4.1), as well as improved capabilities in the Helmet-Mounted Display and AASM 1000 kg. The OSF (long-range optoelectronics system) will add IRST (Infrared Search and Track) for detecting and identifying airborne stealth targets at long range (F4.1). It will be more effective in network-centric warfare, with more data exchange and satellite communication capacity and will launch small (F4.2).
Users[edit | edit source]
- Brazilian Air Force x 60
- Brazilian Navy
- Brazilian Naval Aviation x 48
- Colombian Air Force x 16
- Croatian Air Force x 12
- Egyptian Air Force x 66
- Armée de l'Air x 256
- Marine Nationale
- Aeronavale x 96
- Hellenic Air Force x 18
- Indian Air Force x 168
- Indian Navy x 57
- Indonesian Air Force x 48
- Libyan Air Force x 18
- Malaysian Air Force x 40
- Portuguese Air Force x 36
- Qatar Emiri Air Force x 36
- Serbian Air Force x 12
- Swiss Air Force x 22
- United Arab Emirates
- United Arab Emirates Air Force x 60 Rafale F3 and 80 x Rafale F4
See Also[edit | edit source]
- Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
- Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon
- Eurofighter Typhoon
- Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon
- KAI KF-21 Boramae
- Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
- Mikoyan MiG-29
- Mikoyan MiG-35