The Dassault Rafale is a relatively small, light airplane. Its combat radius is also impressive – 1,852 kilometers, the second-best in the market trailing only the F-15C/D. The Rafale also has an excellent rate of climb – 304 m/s.

According to Bangkok Post on May 19, 2019 – Poor weather has forced seven French navy fighter jets taking part in a training exercise to make emergency landings in northern Indonesia.

Local air force base commander Col. Hendro Arief says the crews of seven Dassault Rafale combat planes landed safely at Sultan Iskandar Muda air force base in Aceh province on Saturday, 90 minutes after taking off from their aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Indian Ocean.

Arief says the jets were holding a training exercise outside of Indonesian territory when bad weather forced them to land while returning to their carrier, which was about 100 nautical miles west of Sumatra island. He said Sunday that Indonesia’s air force has completed a comprehensive inspection of the planes.

Dassault Rafale review

The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. The Rafale is able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The fully versatile Rafale is able to carry out all combat aviation missions: air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence. The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault.

The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006. With more than 30,000 flight hours in operations, it has proven its worth in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. The Rafale was ordered by Egypt, Qatar and India.

The Rafale program was initiated in the late 1970s by the Giscard d’Estaing administration as a replacement for the Super Etendard, Mirage F1, Mirage III, and Mirage V aircraft already in service and the Mirage 2000 multirole fighters which were in the advanced design and production phase.

The Rafale, with its “Omnirole” capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments. It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft.

The Rafale was developed as a modern jet fighter with a very high level of agility; Dassault chose to combine a delta wing with active close-coupled canard to maximize manoeuvrability. The aircraft is capable of withstanding from −3.6g to 9g. The Rafale is an aerodynamically unstable aircraft and uses digital fly-by-wire flight controls to artificially enforce and maintain stability. The aircraft’s canards also act to reduce the minimum landing speed to 213 km/h; while in flight, airspeeds as low as 28 km/h have been observed during training missions. According to simulations by Dassault, the Rafale has sufficient low speed performance to operate from STOBAR-configured aircraft carriers, and can take off using a ski-jump with no modifications.

The naval modifications of the Rafale M increase its weight by 500 kilograms compared to other variants. The Rafale M retains about 95 percent commonality with Air Force variants including, although unusual for carrier-based aircraft, being unable to fold its multi-spar wings to reduce storage space. The size constraints were offset by the introduction of Charles de Gaulle, France’s first nuclear-powered carrier, which was considerably larger than previous carriers, Foch and Clemenceau.

The cockpit has hands-on throttle and stick control. The cockpit is equipped with a heads-up, wide-angle holographic display from Thales Avionique, which provides aircraft control data, mission data and firing cues.

A collimated, multi-image head-level display presents tactical situation and sensor data, while two touch-screen lateral displays show the aircraft system parameters and mission data. The pilot also has a helmet-mounted sight and display. A CCD camera and onboard recorder records the image of the head-up display throughout the mission.

The Rafale is powered by two M88-2 engines from SNECMA, each providing a thrust of 75kN. The aircraft is equipped for buddy-buddy refuelling with a flight refuelling hose reel and drogue pack. The first M88 engine was delivered in 1996. It is a twin-shaft bypass turbofan engine principally suitable for low-altitude penetration and high-altitude interception missions.

The Dassault Rafale is a relatively small, light airplane. Its combat radius is also impressive – 1,852 kilometers, the second-best in the market trailing only the F-15C/D. The Rafale also has an excellent rate of climb – 304 m/s.

The one thing that somewhat lets the Rafale down – other than its 55,000 ft ceiling – is its speed of Mach 1.8, compared to Mach 2 or more for most other fighters. However, its principal competitor, the F-35, is worse at just Mach 1.61 and 43,000 ft. In that regime of Air to Air warfare, neither speed nor ceiling would be a significant issue; the predominant factors are agility, pilot visibility, sensors, gun caliber, and the quality and quantity of within-visual-range, infrared-guided missiles.

Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9t on 14 hardpoints for the air force version, with 13 for the naval version. 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, Penguin 3 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

For a strategic mission the Rafale can deliver the MBDA ASMP stand-off nuclear missile. The Rafale has a twin gun pod and a Nexter 30mm DEFA 791B cannon, which can fire 2,500 rounds a minute. The Rafale is equipped with laser designation pods for laser guidance of air-to-ground missiles.

With its outstanding load-carrying capability and its advanced mission system, the Rafale can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie.

It is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase: a clear demonstration of the true “Omnirole” capability and outstanding survivability of the Rafale.

The Rafale has already proven itself in three different wars. In Afghanistan, it performed numerous ground strikes against the Taleban, sometimes with GBU-12 Paveway II bombs used against Taleban caves. In Libya, it successfully evaded Qaddafi’s woefully obsolete 1960s-vintage Soviet air defense systems and led the fight against his regime. Most recently, in Mali, the Rafale flew long distances to perform strikes against Islamic insurgents.

Thus, the Rafale is a veteran of three wars despite entering service only a little more than a decade ago, a stark distinction to all of its competitors except the Super Hornet, none of which have seen any combat whatsoever, even against obsolete Soviet air defense systems or insurgents unable to contest control of the air.

The Dassault Rafale is not an aircraft for France alone. While French Armed Forces are planning to purchase a total of 294 Rafales, other nations have also purchased the multi-role fighter. Egypt has ordered 24 Rafales and received their first delivery in 2015. Qatar has also ordered 24. As the Qatari military has a need to replace their older Mirage fighters and Alpha Jet light aircraft, this number is expected to increase to 72 over time.

In September 2016, India and France signed contracts for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters, due to be delivered over the next 6 years. While current exports are promising, Dassault faces heavy competition with the Eurofighter Typhoon and other multi-role aircraft. Current French spending and investment into the Rafale program offsets other defense budgetary needs, putting France at risk if Dassault is not able to leverage larger and more frequent export contracts.


  1. Except that Rafale has SPECTRA which includes a combat proven ARC (active radar cancellation) that has proven even more efficient at dodging hostile radars than the outdated 1st generation stealth method used by USA or China… But wait, in order to deal with future threat, Rafale will introduce the 3rd gen stealth with its F4.1 upgrade in 2022. This system simply absorbs any time of microwave while using only 200W of energy to achieve this. It has already been fit on French M51.3 SLBM upgrade making simply impossible to detect a French nuclear attack before the missile releases its 10 MIRVs. The future hypersonic ASN4G which is set to replace the Mach.3 ASMPA nuclear cruise missile (w. already stealth features onboard) is also planned to receive this system…
    In July 2020, the illegally installed Turkish airbase in Libya suffered two devastating air attacks by “unknown delta-winged jet fighters”.

    Turkey had installed two MIM-23 Hawk-XXI batteries (18 ready to lunch missiles each), which might be based on the classic Hawk missile but so much improved that it’s more dangerous for aircraft than Patriot PAC-3MSE, having 10-15km longer range, a radar that covers 360° instead of 120°, the AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel, providing a 3D coverage at 75km, tracking up to 60 targets at once, it is doubled by the AN/MPQ-61 low altitude radar adding the engagement of 12 more threats at once like terrain-hugging cruise missiles, small kamikaze UCAVs. There is also TV/IR optic system for passive missile guidance.The AN/MPQ-62 target acquisition radars adds to this.

    Turkey had also deployed its powerful Koral electronic warfare suite which is mounted on five 8×8 trucks and is supposed to jam, deceive, and paralyse hostile radars at up to 200km, then Hisar short-range SAMs, and Korkut antiaircraft guns.
    Rafales hit other targets including the Turkish command post with 7 officers in, 3 radars, SAMs stockpile.

    A few days later, the Hawk-XXIs were replaced by Ukraine-upgraded S-125 Pechora. Another strike by “unknown delta jets” happened in July, demolishing these systems. Note that they even did the classic Soviet procedure, launching the 24 missiles of the battery in every direction in LOAL (lock on after launch) mode when they understood that the spots they were seeing on radars were incoming bombs…

    So… non stealthy while a SAM system well known for having shot down a F-117 and badly damaged another is not even able to engage jet fighters that are visually witnessed overflying the area and proceeding to a SEAD operation at close range when the usual NATO procedure is to launch AGM-88 HARM missiles from 150km?
    Rafale acts the same way stealth aircraft were believed to do while they were kept secret. Actually, no F-35 or F-117 owner would dare to act this way especially knowing S-125 are here since S-125 commonly uses E-band radars for which US obsolete stealth is… not stealth!

    French investments in Rafale never offsetted the military budget, in fact, Rafale is VERY cheap to use : while Super-Hornet costs $24,000 per hour, F-16 more than $22,000, F-15C or Typhoon about $41,000 and F-35A more than $65,000 per hour on the Russan side, you’ll spend $27k/h for a Fulcrum and $35k/h for a Flanker, Rafale costs $10000-12,000/h, this is $5-7k less than a A-10 and on par with the costs of a much less capable Gripen-E.
    At $71M flyaway cost for Rafale-C or $76M for Rafale-B, with an annual cost of only about $4.8-5.76M/year (480h/y basis = 3 shifts able to operate24/7/52, typical NATO way of doing), even aircraft cheaper to purchase soon will end costing more.
    Another funny fact, when intensive use of Russian jets means 3 missions/24h, when Gripen or F-18 can do 4… Normal use of Rafale allows 5-6 while intensive use is… 11 missions!

    I’d add to this that since the Rafale engine can be made up to 115kN afterburner thrust while taking MUCH less room than others (1.34m³) and being much lighter too, was I air chief of staff of ANY air force using… F-15, F-16, Hornet, Super-Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Gripen-C/D, Gripen-E/F, Tejas, MiG-29, MiG-33, MiG-35, MiG-25, Su-27, Su-30, Su-22, KAI Golden Eagle, JF-17 Thunder, Chengdu J-7/F-7, Typhoon, Mirage-2000, Mirage-III/5, Mirage-F1, IAI Kfir, Atlas Cheetah, Guizhou JL-9, Panavia Tornado, F-4 Phantom II, F-14 Tomcat (USA would be furious), Sukhoi Su-24, MiG-27, Sukhoi Su-7, Sukhoi Su-17/20/22, Boeing T-7 Redhawk…
    Providing the fact we sustain good relations with France, I’d simply have the engines of these aircraft replaced with Rafale’s M88 with a thrust on par with the needs of the aircraft as the cost per engine would be, worst case scenario, be cut by no less than 50% : on a F-16 or F/A-18 squadron with 480h/y/aircraft, this is just $100 millions spared!!! Moreover, the engine being so small, you can stuff at least 1000-1200L more fuel in a Tejas or Gripen or Mirage-2000, 3200L on a Mirage-III and even more in F-15 or F-16. The MiG-25’s engines are so huge that if you replace each by 2 M88/115kN, you make room for at least 15000-17000L additional fuel, it may require structural reinforcement, the afterburner may only serve to take-off in overload but… you’d just end with 146% of the MiG-25’s thrust without afterburner… Just imagine being able to fly for 2 hours at 3000km/h…

    In fact, I’d even consider a non afterburner version for SEPECAT Jaguar, Sukhoi Su-25, A-4 Skyhawk, BAE Systems Hawk; A-10 Warthog; AMX Intl. AMX, AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo, Shenyang J-5 (MiG-17)… The F-CK-1 Ching-kuo or the Jaguar at Mach-2 in supercruise, vrooom!

    Moreover, thanks to reliability, the crash rate will plummet but the logistics would greatly improve especially since the engine is modular, then, the cost of use is so low that you can consider to modernize your air force, after all, the purchase can always be some barter, I think that some countries bartered jet fighters for oil, copra, bananas, or whatever…

    Just consider… e.g. Vietnam : I will take VN as example since PRC bullies them and has 50x their military budget…
    if they fly their 46 Flankers and 34 Su-22 for 480h/year each, the annual cost is around $1-1.1 billion a year with about $773M for the Flankers alone. with about $420M spared on the Flankers, and eventually retire the 34 Su-22 which are ageing, VPAF can consider add 144 Rafales = 8 squadrons, and the Flankers would also be able to be pushed to 11 missions a day with freakily extended combat range.

    For sure, in terms of flyaway cost, it’s about $10.4bn, and there might be other induced costs, nevertheless, with a fleet of M88-46 modified Flankers and 144 Rafales, the yearly cost of use is similar to what VPAF uses today! Then, here are ways of consider an efficient deterrent from this:

    On one side, Su-30 can carry Brahmos or Nirbhay and end with a range allowing to strike Beijing, military factories in Shenyang or Chengdu etc, it has to be noted that the Kh-55 or Kh-55SM is very easy to copy, and the French Microturbo TRI engine is a perfect and cheap feat for a K-55… Here are means to go after deep high value target far inside the territory of a big bad neighbor including its Achille’s Heel : 22,000 dams…
    Then, if custom hardpoints for five Meteor LRAAMs are ordered (in fact, the kind of hardpoints F-4 Phantom used with an AAM rail on each side, except that Meteors replaces the Sidewinders, then you fit a TER for 3 more, or maybe stack two TERs for a grape of 6 or 7 if feasible… Note that other ‘cheaper’ AAMs can be fit for less challenging targets and:or closer range, e.g. MICA-NG, I-Derby-ER)… Then, the 144 Rafales can be armed in a way to deal with a vast superior force. An interesting asset against UCAVs could be the good ‘ole Vympel R-60, with only 2.01m long, it must be feasible to create racks for 18 or 24.

    Now, another clever idea for VPAF, even if the cost per unit would be higher and they’d better consider a licence-building or deliveries may take forever : instead of using 12 Yak-130, 25 L-39C and having 12 L-39NG on order, the twin seat version of HAL Tejas could be very valuable : DRDO+Dassault have already tested and validated near all the mods necessary to make Tejas a single engine light version of Rafale. The M88/98kN would make it able to carry more payload than a MiG-35 or Mirage-2000-9 while the hourly cost would be about $5-6k/ hour… Compared to the $9350 of a T-38 or F-5F. Well, IDK the hourly cost of Yak-130 or L-39 or L-39NG (which has improved engine) but at $2.4-2.88M/year/unit, a fleet of 44 twin seat Tejas can do much better than only serve as trainers if necessary, especially with RBE-2/AESA (Meteor-OK radar), OSF-IT, SPECTRA’s ARC, moreover, the (naval) Tejas-M makes me think the twin seater has been created modular, so it may be feasible to replace the back seat with fuel+combat systems. Dassault estimated the flyaway cost to $45-46M, and this is w. a reinforced airframe sustaining 11G. So, even if it may mean a $2.16b flyaway cost, the cost of use being really low, the trainers are more than having a light strike aircraft role : despite being light, they are as capable as many mid-weight multirole fighters, Dassault even proposed a BRS parachute in case of engine failure (!). In fact, I’d consider a complementary single-seat fleet of 8 additional squadrons for later and… mass export : there is a huge market to storm for such a LCA.

    Same for the Yak-52 primary trainer aircraft which are at best 23 years old, at worst 45y old… The Pilatus PC-21 can both do the primary trainer as well as assuming the direct conversion to Rafale, thanks to really advanced training system… But… it’d be funny to replace its 1600hp P&W PT6 which is 1960 technology by the new 2000hp Ardiden 3TP… moreover, PC-21 can serve as a COIN/light strike aircraft and 2000hp would allow more payload than a Super-Tucano… These could surely be fit with VPAF’s remaining Vympel K-13 and especially R-60 for UCAV-hunt.

    And rather than getting C-212, C-295, well, Dassault owns a forgotten Bréguet design, the Br.941. With modern composites and 4x 2000hp Ardiden 3TP instead of the original 1450hp ones, well, watch the Br.941 take off and land on Youtube, then you fall in love with this kinda mini C-130 that can operate from a tablecloth. A NG version has potential to carry about 12t payload. The potentials on both civilian and military markets is enormous, even at doing the AWACS job from LHDs.

    One thing for sure, in terms of cost effciency, French gear is really impressive and not only for aircraft: for half the price of a Humvee, you get an EBRC Jaguar or a VBMR Griffon this also the price of a TOW launcher. And so it goes for the ships, etc… It may not be as cheap as China or Russia, but quality is much higher than the US gear for a fraction of the price.


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