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.

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