France’s Signature Fighter Jet: Dassault Rafale

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The Dassault Rafale (literally meaning “gust of wind”,and “burst of fire” in a more military sense) is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault.

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 (10.5g on Rafale solo display and a maximum of 11g can be reached in case of emergency. 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 115 knots (213 km/h; 132 mph); while in flight, airspeeds as low as 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) 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.

Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9t on 14 hardpoints for the airforce 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 / AM39, Penguin 3 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

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.

Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. The Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries, and was selected for purchase by the Egyptian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, the Qatar Air Force and the Hellenic Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.

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