Rafale – Latest French Fighter Aircraft By Dassault Aviation
The Rafale is a multi-mission, multi-role air superiority fighter plane designed and developed by French company Dassault Aviation. Over a period of last decades, The Rafale has proved of combat capabilities with an excellent track record of performance.
The Dassault Rafale has also emerged as the most preferred choice for multirole fighter plane and recently bagged many international orders amongst most fierce competition.
In today’s modern warfare, the air superiority over your adversary is major strategic advantage and plays a crucial role in deciding the fate of the war or achieving the mission objectives .
Historically the nations with a modern air force that can enforce the air superiority have always won the war , even with the relatively smaller size of the armed force.
Why France Decided to Develop its own Fighter Plane :
During the late 1970 the existing ageing aircraft such as Mirage 2000 in service with French Air Force and navy needed to be replaced with modern contemporary technology planes .
In order to save the development time , share the project development cost and technology and to facilitate future sales , The French government decided to join the consortium of four countries which includes Germany , UK , Italy and span which was already working on the project Eurofighter Typhoon .
However as the work progressed on this consortium project , the disagreement immerged on many issues and the French government decided to exit from the Eurofighter Typhoon project and started working on building its own project .
The France started the work on the project for its own fighter plane and the first prototype of Rafale was ready in 1986 for the technology demonstration .
Design And Development Phase :
The French companies already had a prior experience in the design and development of state-of-the-art Mirage 2000 which is also a delta wing formidable plane still in active service with many countries.
And therefore, the French companies had the advantage of already developed technological base for many critical technological areas such as Radar , Engine , Avionics , fly-by-wire technology and weapon systems . The Rafale canard-delta wing design is basically an aerodynamically unstable aircraft and therefore this design needs a digital fly-by-wire flight controls to artificially enforce and maintain the stability of the aircraft with the help of onboard computers.
However , In terms of technology , the Rafale is in a class apart. The Rafale incorporates latest avionics and features, such as Direct Voice input, the RBE2 AA , Active Electronically Scanned Array ( AESA ) radar and the Optronique Secteur Frontal ( OSF ) , Infra-red Search And Track ( IRST ) and all these new technologies had to be specially developed by French companies for the Rafale project . The French companies had developed all these technologies indigenously without any external assistance.
Although Rafale project did suffer some setbacks and delays due to project cost cuttings and budget cuts in the post cold-war era. It was indeed creditable for the French companies to entirely design and develop a 4.5 plus generation plane within such a short span of time on its own . The Rafale has turned out to be amongst the finest and best in its class fighter aircraft .
Features And Specifications :
The Rafale is multi-role and multi-mission state-of-the-art fighter plane which is stated to be 4.5 plus generation . The Dassault Rafale design is based on canard-delta wing and powered by two engines . The Rafale has been designed and developed by French company Dassault Aviation which has an excellent track record of producing both world-class military and civilian planes.
The Rafale has been designed and developed as an “Omnirole” aircraft by Dassault Aviation for a wide range of operations such as
- Air Supremacy,
- Aerial Reconnaissance,
- Ground Attack And Support,
- Deep Strike Mission
- Anti-Ship And Anti-Submarine Strike
- Nuclear Deterrence
Engine : The Rafale is a twin-engine aircraft which is fitted with two Snecma M88 engines. Each Snecma M88 engine is capable of producing up to 50 kN of dry thrust and 75 kN with afterburners.
Radar : The initial variants of Rafale were first fitted with the Thales RBE2 passive electronically scanned multi-mode radar . However , later on these radars were replaced with latest RBE2 AA Active Electronically Scanned Array ( AESA ) radar .
The Rafale in Ground Attack Role :
The Dassault Rafale has been specifically designed for both Air-to-air and air-to-ground roles and the Rafale has been marketed as an “Omnirole” to describe the effectiveness of the aeroplane in both the roles.
As compared to Eurofighter Typhoon, the Rafale doesn’t have as much as the thrust-to-weight ratio of the Eurofighter Typhoon, But the Rafale far exceeds it in terms of payload and strike radius. And Rafale can effectively perform both the roles reasonably well.
The Rafale’s ground attack capability mainly depends upon the sensory targeting pods and other integrated systems and that includes Thales Optronics‘ New Generation pod , Areos reconnaissance pod and Damocles electro-optical and laser designation pod.
The integration of these sensor pods together provides all the required information to the pilot to get a lock-on to the target and provides the ability to conduct tactical reconnaissance missions.
This sensor pods system is also integrated with the Rafale’s IMA architecture necessary for sharing the real-time analyzed data and other information feeds to ground stations , friendly units as well as other pilots part of the formation.
The Rafale is also equipped with sensors for ground attack role and the scalp missiles which can strike ground targets up to 300 km with pinpoint accuracy .
For long-range ground attack role , the Rafale is equipped with SCALP EG Air-To-Ground missile and has an effective range of 560 KM. The SCALP EG missile is manufactured by MBDA .
The Rafale in Air Supremacy Role :
The Dassault Rafale is a formidable opponent in both close and long range dogfight situation . The Rafale is well equipped with latest AESA radar , extremely potent air-to-air missiles which includes short range , medium range and very long range BVR missiles to effectively engage and neutralize all kinds of aerial threats .
The Rafale incorporates several passive sensor systems to effectively perform air supremacy role . The or. The Rafale makes use of Optronique Secteur Frontal ( OSF ) which is a front-sector electro-optical system developed by French Thales. The OSF system is completely integrated within the aircraft and can operate both in the visible and infrared wavelengths.The OSF enables the deployment of infrared missiles such as the MICA at BVR – Beyond Visual Range distances .
The Rafele is now equipped with METEOR BVR developed by MBDA. The Meteor is an active radar guided BVR – Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile that is capable of engaging the targets at very long distances. The Meteor is a complete game changer.
International Customers :
France : The Rafale is currently in service with French Air Force and navy .
Egypt : Egypt became the first international customer and purchased 24 Rafale.
Qatar : Qatar became the second country to purchase 24 Rafale in 2015 .
India : Indian government placed the order for 36 Rafale . The Indian Rafale will be the most advanced variant of Rafale with some India specific enhancements such as helmet mounted display ( Similar to American F35 )