Dassault Rafale

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Information on the Rafale

The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engined delta-wing highly agile multi-role fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Dassault uses 'Omni Role' as a marketing term in an effort to differentiate the aircraft from other 'multi-role' fighters which have primary and secondary roles. Dassault also uses the term to indicate the Rafale's ability to switch from one role to another during a single sortie; but most of all to the fact that, in testament to its versatility, the Rafale is replacing seven specialised planes.

The Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based naval operation with the French Navy. It has also been marketed for export; while there are no foreign sales yet, several countries have expressed interest.


In the mid 1970s, both the French Air Force (Arm?e de l'Air) and Navy (A?ronavale) had a requirement (the Navy's being rather more pressing) to find a new generation of fighter (principally to replace AdlA Jaguars and A?ronavale Crusaders), and their requirements were similar enough to be merged into one project.

The Rafale A technology demonstrator was rolled out in late 1985 and made its maiden flight on 4 July 1986, The SNECMA M88 engines being developed were not considered sufficiently mature for the initial trials programme to be conducted without risk (though their development status has often been underplayed), so the demonstrator flew with General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofans as used on the F/A-18 Hornet. The demonstrator impressed the French Ministry of Defence enough to place production orders in 1988.

Further testing continued, including carrier touch-and-go landings and test-flying early M88 engines, before the Rafale A was retired in 1994. Though the Rafale A and EAP were broadly comparable, when the first Eurofighter made its maiden flight in March 1994, pre-series Rafales had been flight-testing for three years, including carrier trials (Rafale C01, Rafale M01 and Rafale B01 first flew in May 1991, December 1991 and April 1993 respectively).

Three versions of Rafale were in the initial production order:

* Rafale C (Chasseur) Single-seat fighter for the AdA (Arm?e de l'Air, French Air Force)
* Rafale B (Biplace) Two-seat fighter for the AdA
* Rafale M (Marine) Single-seat carrier fighter for the A?ronavale

The prototype Rafale C flew in 1991, the first of two Rafale M prototypes flew later that year, the prototype Rafale B flew in early 1993 and the second Rafale M prototype flew later that year. Catapult trials were initially carried out between July 13 and August 23 1992 at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey, USA, and Patuxent River, Maryland, USA, France having no land-based catapult test facility. The aircraft then undertook trials aboard the carrier Foch.

Initially the Rafale B was to be just a trainer, but Gulf War and Kosovo experience showed that a second crewmember is invaluable on strike and reconnaissance missions, and therefore more Rafale Bs were ordered, replacing some Rafale Cs. A similar decision was made by the Navy, who initially did not have a two-seat aircraft on order; the program nevertheless was stopped.

Political and economic uncertainty meant that it was not until 1999 that a production Rafale M flew.

The French forces were once expected to order 292 Rafales: 232 for the Air Force and 60 for the Navy. Reductions are now widely predicted, and only 120 Rafales have been officially ordered to date. These are being delivered in three separate batches, the most recent being the December 2004 order for 59 Rafales, though the French MoD has revealed that this figure is currently under study and is likely to be reduced to 51 aircraft "for the same overall cost". It was hinted that the sacrifice of 8-12 aircraft would "allow for the introduction of new sensors developed by the French industry on this batch."

The marine version has priority since the aircraft it is replacing are much older, especially the Vought F-8 Crusader fighter which is a 50 year old design. Service deliveries began in 2001 and the type 'entered service' on 4 December 2000, though the first squadron, Flotille 12, did not actually reform until 18 May 2001. The unit embarked on the Charles de Gaulle in 2002, becoming fully operational on 25 June 2004, following an extended opeval (operational evaluation) which included flying limited escort and tanker missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. Though restricted to an air-to-air role, with a limited range of weapons the Rafale M was claimed by some to be the most advanced fighter in service in Europe.

The Armee de l'Air received its first three Rafale Bs (to F2 standards) in late December 2004. They went to the CEAM at Mont-de-Marsan for operational evaluation and associated pilot conversion training. The first Arm?e de l'Air frontline unit, Escadron de Chasse 1/7 Provence, will form at St. Dizier during 2006, delayed deliveries having forced some delay to the squadron's stand up date. FOC was until recently still optimistically scheduled for September 2006, but has now slipped back to mid-2007, when the type should be fully operational as an Omni-role fighter/fighter-bomber with Mica AAMs, Scalp EG ASMs, GPS-guided bombs, and LGBs (though the latter will be designated by other platforms or by ground based systems).


Rafale A
This was a technology demonstrator that first flew in 1986, as described above. It has now been retired.
Rafale D
Dassault used this designation (D for discret or stealthy) in the early 1990s for the production versions for the Arm?e de l'Air, to emphasize the new semi-stealthy features they had added to the design. Various sources have reported the development of an active stealth system, involving the use of a system which broadcasts "cancellation" waves.
Rafale B
This is the 2-seater version for the Arm?e de l'Air; delivered to EC 330 in 2004.
Rafale C
This is the single-seat version for the Arm?e de l'Air; delivered to EC 330 in June 2004.
Rafale M
This is the carrier-borne version for the A?ronavale, which entered service in 2002. The Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C. Unusual for a carrier-based plane. Very similar to the Rafale C in appearance, the M differs in the following respects:
* Strengthened to withstand the rigors of carrier-based aviation
* Stronger landing gear
* Longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude for catapult launches
* Deleted front center pylon (to give space for the longer gear)
* Large stinger-type tailhook between the engines
* Built-in power operated boarding ladder
* Carrier microwave landing system
* "Telemir" inertial reference platform that can receive updates from the carrier systems.

Rafale N
The Rafale N, originally called the Rafale BM, was planned to be a 2-seater version for the A?ronavale. Budget constraints and the cost of training extra crew members have been cited as the grounds for its cancellation.

Combat systems

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. But the most important sensor is the THALES RBE2 passive electronically scanned multi-mode radar. Thales claims to have achieved unprecedented levels of situational awareness through the earlier detection and tracking of multiple air targets for close combat and long-range interception, real time generation of three-dimensional maps for terrain-following, and the real time generation of high resolution ground maps for navigation and targeting.

However, in those circumstances when signature management is required, the Rafale can use several passive sensor systems:

The front-sector electro optical system or Optroniques Secteur Frontal (OSF), developed by Thales, is completely integrated within the aircraft and can operate both in the visible and infrared wavelengths.

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 real-time data link allows communication not only with other aircraft, but also with fixed and mobile command and control centres. For those missions requiring it, the Rafale will also eventually use the DAMOCLES electro-optical/laser designation pod that brings full day and night LGB capability, though the Arm?e de l'Air's current plans call for Rafale to use stand off weapons, and for the LGB role to be handled by Mirage 2000s.

Programme milestones

April - Dassault awarded contract for ACX (Rafale A) technology demonstrator
France formally withdraws from Eurofighter programme, commits to Rafale project.
July 4 - First flight of Rafale A
December - Development of SNECMA M88 engines commences
April - First order signed (for Rafale C prototype).
February - Flight tests of M-88 begin
May 19 - First flight of Arm?e de l'Air single seat prototype (Rafale C)
December 12 - First flight of A?ronavale prototype (Rafale M)
Rafale M carrier trials programme begins
March - First contract for production aircraft signed.
April - Start of carrier compatibility trials with Foch.
April 30 - First flight of Arm?e de l'Air twin seat prototype (Rafale B)
June - First Mica fired from Rafale in self guided mode.
July - OSF system and helmet-mounted sight/display installed and tested.
September - Rafale M tested on board carrier (4th series).
November - First non-stop long-range flight by Rafale B01 (3,020 nm in under 6 hours 30 minutes).
October - Final land-based carrier test series of Rafale M in the USA.
December - First production model fuselage assembly.
March - M88 engine "flightworthiness" qualified.
April - Production suspended, restarted in January 1997 following cost reductions.
May - Low level tests with digital terrain database.
July - Spectra electronic warefare system integration tests in anechoic chamber
November - Spectra flight tested.
December - First deliveries of production standard engines.
February - Rafale B01 flight tested in heavyweight configuration (2 Apache ASMs, 3 2,000l drop tanks, 2 Magic and 2 Mica AAMs).
May - First inertially-guided MICA firing.
June - Flight testing of Spectra countermeasures system.
October - First production RBE2 radar flown for the first time.
November - Inertially-guided firing of missiles against two targets, with aircraft-to-missile link, with countermeasures.
June - Qualification of MICA fire control system.
June - Proposed initial operational capability evaluated by Navy and Air Force pilots flying Rafale B01 and M02 development aircraft.
November 24 - First flight of production Rafale (a Rafale B)
May - First test launch of SCALP cruise missile.
July 6 - First deck landing of FS Charles de Gaulle.
July 7 - First flight of production Rafale M
July 20 - First Rafale M delivered to Flotille 12F
Rafale M entered service with 12F (Aeronavale, evaluation)
Full service entry with 12F (Navy)
December - 3 Rafale Bs delivered to CEAM, Mont de Marsan
September 9 - First Meteor GHTM (General Handling Training Missiles) carriage trials by Rafale M from CEV Istres
September 11 - First Meteor GHTM carriage trials by Rafale M from the carrier Charles de Gaulle.
Summer 2006
Formation of EC 1/7 with 8-10 aircraft
Mid 2007
Full service entry (Air Force) expected with EC7


Initial deliveries of the Rafale M were to the F1 ("France 1") standard. This meant that the aircraft was suitable for air-to-air combat, replacing the obsolescent F-8 Crusader as the Aviation Navale's carrier-based fighter, but not equipped or armed for air-to-ground operations. Future deliveries (to Flotille 11 some time after 2007) will be to the "F2" standard, giving air-to-ground capability, and replacing the Dassault Super ?tendard in the ground attack role and the Dassault ?tendard IVP in the reconnaissance role. This will leave the Rafale M as the only fixed-wing aircraft flown by the Aviation Navale, and plans are to upgrade all airframes to the "F3" standard, with terrain-following 3D radar and nuclear capability, from early in the decade following 2010.

The first Rafale C delivered to the Arm?e de l'Air, in June 2005, was to the "F2" standard, and it is anticipated that upgrades similar to those of the navy will take place in the future. The Rafale replaces the SEPECAT Jaguar, Mirage F1 and the Mirage 2000 in the Arm?e de l'Air.


The Rafale is now in service in the trials and training role with the French Air Force (CEAM/EC 5/330) and EC 1/7 at St Dizier is expected to receive a nucleus of 8-10 Rafale F2s during the Summer of 2006, and looks set to enter full operational service (with robust air-to-air and stand off air-to-ground precision attack capabilities) during mid 2007 (when EC 1/7 will have about 20 aircraft). The aircraft is already in limited operational service with the French Navy (Flotille 12F) in the air-to-air role, and has undertaken a great deal of air-to-ground trials and evaluation work.


No foreign sales have yet been made, though the type has been rated highly in a number of evaluations. It faces tough competion from other European and American aircraft manufacturers that offer the rivals Eurofighter Typhoon, JAS Gripen, F-16, F-15, and the F-35. In addition, it competes with the latest Russian designs such as the Su-27, Mig-29, among others. Previous French fighter aircraft, such as the Mirage family, have performed well on the export market (and continue to do so) but the Rafale has proved to be more difficult to sell in the international arena.

South Korea and Singapore

The Rafale was shortlisted (with the F-15K) in South Korea in early 2002, but was eliminated from the competition in April 2002. Dassault immediately filed a court injunction in Seoul, disputing the selection process, which it claimed to be biased in favor of US interests. The Korean defense ministry responded that the selection was made on the basis of the F-15K's multirole capability, payload, combat radius, performance, and the proven combat capability of the F-15E upon which the F-15K was based.

The Korea Times (14 December 2005, Jung Sung-ki) reported that "Rafale had outperformed F-15K in the first inspection of operational capabilities." Its not clear what aspect they meant, as most of the basic specs are greater for the F-15. Maximum speed for the Rafale is listed as Mach 1.8 (2,130 km/h, 1,320 mph) and for the Strike Eagle as Mach 2.54 (2,698 km/h, 1,665 mph). Range for the Rafale 1,100 miles (1,800 km, 970 nm), and 2,400 miles (3,900 km) for the Strike Eagle.

In August 2005 Singapore selected the Boeing F-15SG after a run-off with the Rafale. The Typhoon had been eliminated from the competition in June 2005. The small size of the order for the F-15T (F-15SG) leaves open the possibility of a further order, perhaps for a second aircraft type.

Rafale was placed second behind versions of the F-15 in both Korea and Singapore, and remained in both competitions after the rival Eurofighter Typhoon was eliminated. The selection of the F-15 was suspected by some to have been influenced by political factors though others point to technical merits such as the much larger combat radius of the F-15. Many Rafale supporters took some comfort in the aircraft's apparently better performance in the competitions than its rivals. The accusation that the purchase was influenced politically, sparked a protest from the Singapore government, declaring that the aircraft was not selected after a detailed technical analysis, not motivated by any political influence. French newspapers and aviation publications have claimed this as evidence that the aircraft was more advanced, more cost-effective and more capable than its rivals. Given the that the Rafale has nearly half the range, a smaller payload, and lower max-speed than the Eagle, it can be noted that it is cleary inferior in at least some areas.


The Pakistan Air Force in 2003 showed interest in the plane and was reportedly very impressed by its dual F-16 style control sticks, which PAF pilots are used to. To date the Rafale is in tough competition with the F-16, J-10 and JF-17; however EADS continues to link Pakistan as a potential Eurofighter costumer - suggesting that the PAF may have a future 4.5 generation fighter program which Rafale could take part in.

According to a number of publications (including Flight Daily News and the prestigious industry newsletter Defence Analysis), however, though Rafale 'out-lasted' Typhoon in both competitions, the Eurofighter aircraft's rejection in Singapore was on technical grounds, and that the Rafale wasn't actually preferred by the evaluation team who selected it.

Several other countries have shown interest in purchasing the Rafale, including the Republic of India[1], where the Mirage 2000 had been expected to win further orders, before the production line closed, and where the Rafale therefore seemed well-placed.

In June 2006, rumors have been spread that Morroco has shown interest in an order for 12 to 16 aircraft (possibly financed by Saudi-Arabia), possibly to replace the F-5s or the oldest Mirage F-1s. Both Dassault and the Morrocan government denied that any orders have been made or talks have taken place.


Total programme cost between ?28,000,000,000.
This translates to a unit programme cost of between ?95,000,000.
Unit system cost FF 600 m (? 91 m) ?88 m
Unit flyaway price (1997) FF 350 m (?53 m)


"India to shop for more combat aircraft", Hindustan Times, 2006-02-26. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
"French Fusion", Flight Daily News, 2005-06-14. Retrieved on 2005-08-30.
Fredriksson, Urban (2006-08-02). Fighter non-comparison table. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
"Fighter improvements follow Singapore defeat", Flight Daily News, 2006-02-23. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
"Typhoon hit by Singapore", Flight Daily News, 2005-06-13. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
"Mirage 2000s Withdrawn As India's MRCA Fighter Competition Changes", Defense Industry Daily, 2006-03-08. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.

Source: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dassault Rafale".

Rafale Specifications

General characteristics
Crew: 1-2
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 m? (492 ft?)
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)
Powerplant: 2? SNECMA M88-2 turbofans
Thrust with afterburner: 75 kN (17,000 lbf) each

Maximum speed: >Mach 1.8 (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: 333 m/s (65,600 ft/min)
Wing loading: 326 kg/m? (66.6 lb/ft?)
Thrust/weight: 0.63

Guns: 1? 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B cannon with 125 rounds
-AIM-9 Sidewinder or
-AIM-132 ASRAAM or
-AIM-120 AMRAAM or
-MBDA Meteor or
-Magic II
-MBDA Apache or
-AASM or
-AM 39 Exocet or
-ASMP nuclear missile

Thales RBE2 radar
Thales Spectra electronic warfare system.
Thales/SAGEM OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) infrared search and track system.

Rafale Videos

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