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 with semi-stealth capabilities. 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 defense 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 programme, 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 Indian Air Force. 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.
In the mid-1970s, both the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) and Navy (Marine nationale)
had requirements for a new generation of fighters to replace those in or about to
enter service.Because their requirements were similar, and to reduce cost, both departments
issued a common request for proposal. In 1975, the French Ministry of Aviation initiated
studies for a new aircraft to complement the upcoming and smaller Mirage 2000, with
each aircraft optimised for differing roles.
In 1979, Dassault joined the MBB/BAe "European Collaborative Fighter" (ECA) project
which was renamed the "European Combat Aircraft". The French company contributed
the aerodynamic layout of prospective twin-engine, single-seat fighter; however,
the project collapsed in 1981 due to differing operational requirements of each partner
country. In 1983, the "Future European Fighter Aircraft" (FEFA) programme was initiated,
bringing together Italy, Spain, West Germany, France and the United Kingdom to jointly
develop a new fighter, although the latter three had their own aircraft developments.
A number of factors led to the eventual split between France and the four countries.
Around 1984 France reiterated its requirement for a carrier-capable version and demanded
a leading role; moreover, France demanded a swing-role fighter that was lighter than
a design desired by the other four nations. West Germany, UK and Italy opted out
and established a new EFA programme. In Turin on 2 August 1985, West Germany, UK
and Italy agreed to go ahead with the Eurofighter; and confirmed that France, along
with Spain, had chosen not to proceed as a member of the project. Despite pressure
from France, Spain rejoined the Eurofighter project in early September 1985. The
four-nation project would eventually result in the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Two Snecma M88-2 turbofans Dry thrust: 50.04 kN (11,250 lbf) each
Thrust with afterburner: 75.62 kN (17,000 lbf) each
Length: 15.27 m (50.1 ft) Wingspan: 10.80 m (35.4 ft) Height: 5.34 m (17.5 ft) Wing
area: 45.7 m² (492 ft²)
High altitude: Mach 1.8+ (2,130+ km/h, 1,050+ knots) Low altitude: Mach 1.1+ (1,390
km/h, 750 knots) Service ceiling: 16,800 m (55,000 ft)
Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B autocannon with 125 rounds Hardpoints: 14 for
Air Force versions (Rafale B/C), 13 for Navy version (Rafale M) with a capacity of
9,500 kg (21,000 lb) external fuel and ordnance and provisions to carry combinations
of: Missiles: MBDA MICA IR or EM or Magic II and MBDA Meteor air-to-air mssiles in
Air-to-ground: MBDA Apache or Storm Shadow-SCALP EG or AASM-Hammer or GBU-12 Paveway
II Air-to-surface: AM 39-Exocet Deterrence: ASMP-A nuclear missile. Other: Thales
Damocles targeting pod RECO NG (New Generation) reconnaissance pod. Also up to 5
drop tanks,t he Rafale can also carry a buddy-buddy refuelling pod.