The RAFALE has successfully completed its first test flights in a new heavily-armed configuration, comprising six air-to-ground precision AASM Hammer missiles, four medium and long range air-to-air missiles from the MICA family, two very long range METEOR missiles, as well as three 2,000 liter fuel tanks.
This preliminary work, self-funded by Dassault Aviation are conducted in collaboration with the Direction Générale de l’Armement (the French Defense Procurement Agency) and will eventually lead to a complete clearance of the flight envelope.
By increasing the capabilities of its fourteen hard points, including eight under the wings, the RAFALE is the only fighter aircraft in the world capable of carrying 1.5 times its own weight. Its “omnirole” capability responds to the needs of countries requiring, at a controlled cost, an operational and versatile tool capable of fulfilling all missions more effectively, whilst mobilizing fewer resources. Two RAFALE aircraft represent the same potential as six MIRAGE 2000 class aircraft.
This new configuration, unmatched in the versatility and firepower it represents, has been made possible thanks to the open architecture of the aircraft designed from the outset to perform all of the missions previously assigned to seven different types of aircraft in France. As a veritable « force booster », the RAFALE is a tool for rationalizing armies.
This new development, which combines great autonomy with the versatility of the weapons system, demonstrates the power and operational superiority of the RAFALE, which already has a unique range of configurations, including the unique ability to strike deeply, with two Scalp cruise missiles and three 2,000 liter fuel tanks, as used by the French armed forces during Operation Harmattan in Libya in 2011.
Thanks to this new technical performance, Dassault Aviation is again demonstrating, a few days after being awarded the contract for the F3-R standard by the French Minister for Defense, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, that the RAFALE is part of a continuous improvement process to meet users’ requirements.
The only totally “omnirole” aircraft in the world, able to operate from a land base or an aircraft carrier, capable of carrying 1.5 times its weight in weapons and fuel, the RAFALE has been designed to perform the full spectrum of combat aircraft missions:
- Interception and air-to-air combat using a 30-mm gun, Mica IR/EM missiles and Meteor missiles (as of 2018).
- Close air support using a 30-mm gun, GBU-12/24 laser-guided bombs, AASM and GBU-49 GPS-guided bombs (used in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali).
- Deep strike using Scalp-Storm Shadow cruise missiles (used in Libya).
- Maritime strike using the Exocet AM39 Block 2 missile and other air-to-surface weapons.
- Real-time tactical and strategic reconnaissance using the Areos pod (used in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali).
- Buddy-buddy in-flight refueling
- Nuclear deterrence using the ASMP-A missile.
The RAFALE entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006, gradually replacing the seven types of previous-generation combat aircraft. Of the 180 aircraft ordered by France to date, 126 have been delivered. The RAFALE fleet currently totals almost 120,000 flight hours, including 16,000 in operations. Since mid-2013, production RAFALE aircraft are equipped with an active array RBE2 AESA radar from Thales.
Crédits photos © Armée de l’air