The Dassault Rafale (French pronunciation: [ʁafal], 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, and nuclear strike missions.
In the late 1970s, the French Air Force and Navy were seeking to replace and consolidate their current fleets of aircraft. In order to reduce development costs and boost prospective sales, France entered into an arrangement with four other European nations to produce an agile multi-purpose fighter. Subsequent disagreements over workshare and differing requirements led to France’s pursuit of its own development program. Dassault built a technology demonstrator which first flew in July 1986 as part of an eight-year flight-test programme, paving the way for the go-ahead of the project. The Rafale is distinct from other European fighters of its era in that it is almost entirely built by one country, involving most of France’s major defence contractors, such as Dassault, Thales and Safran.
Many of the aircraft’s avionics and features, such as direct voice input, the RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array radar and the Optronique secteur frontal infra-red search and track sensor, were domestically developed and produced for the Rafale programme. Originally scheduled to enter service in 1996, the Rafale suffered significant delays due to post-Cold War budget cuts and changes in priorities. The aircraft is available in three variants: Rafale C single-seat land-based version, Rafale B twin-seat land-based version, and Rafale M single-seat carrier-based version.
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 it has been selected for purchase by the Indian Air Force, the Egyptian Air Force, and the Qatar Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. Several upgrades to the weapons and avionics of the Rafale are planned to be introduced by 2018.
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.
Although not a full-aspect stealth aircraft, the cost of which was viewed as unacceptably excessive, the Rafale was designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature. In order to reduce the RCS, changes from the initial technology demonstrator include a reduction in the size of the tail-fin, fuselage reshaping, repositioning of the engine air inlets underneath the aircraft’s wing, and the extensive use of composite materials and serrated patterns for the construction of the trailing edges of the wings and canards. 70% of the Rafale’s surface area is composite. Many of the features designed to reduce the Rafale’s visibility to threats remain classified.
The Rafale’s glass cockpit was designed around the principle of data fusion – a central computer intelligently selects and prioritises information to display to pilots for simpler command and control. The primary flight controls are arranged in a hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)-compatible configuration, with a right-handed side-stick controller and a left-handed throttle. The seat is inclined rearwards at an angle of 29° to improve g-force tolerance during manoeuvring and to provide a less restricted external pilot view.An intelligent flight suit worn by the pilot is automatically controlled by the aircraft to counteract in response to calculated g-forces.
Great emphasis has been placed on pilot workload minimisation across all operations. Among the features of the highly digitised cockpit is an integrated direct voice input (DVI) system, allowing a range of aircraft functions to be controlled by spoken voice commands, simplifying the pilot’s access to many of the controls.
For displaying information gathered from a range of sensors across the aircraft, the cockpit features a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD) system, two head-down flat-panel colour multi-function displays (MFDs) as well as a central collimated display.
Image @rafalefan.e-monsite.comImage @rafalefan.e-monsite.com
These displays have been strategically placed to minimise pilot distraction from the external environment. Some displays feature a touch interface for ease of Human–computer interaction (HCI). A head-mounted display (HMD) for target controlling, while optional according to customer preferences, can also be integrated.The cockpit is fully compatible with night vision goggles (NVG).
Rafale is fitted with a Martin-Baker Mark 16F “zero-zero” ejection seat, capable of operation at zero speed and zero altitude
Avionics and equipment
The Rafale core avionics systems employ an integrated modular avionics (IMA), called MDPU (modular data processing unit). This architecture hosts all the main aircraft functions such as the flight management system, data fusion, fire control, and the man-machine interface.The total value of the radar, electronic communications and self-protection equipment is about 30 percent of the cost of the entire aircraft.
The Rafale features an integrated defensive-aids system named SPECTRA, which protects the aircraft against airborne and ground threats, developed as a joint venture between Thales and MBDA. Various methods of detection, jamming, and decoying have been incorporated, and the system has been designed to be highly re-programmable for addressing new threats and incorporating additional sub-systems in the future.
Integrated defensive-aids system named SPECTRA, which protects the aircraft against airborne and ground threatsThales AREOS Reco NG (Airborne and Reconnaissance and Observation) systemThales Damocles and TALIOS multifunction targeting pods
The Rafale’s ground attack capability is heavily reliant upon sensory targeting pods, such as Thales Optronics’s Reco New Generation/Areos reconnaissance pod and Damocles electro-optical/laser designation pod.
RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar
The RBE2-AA radar system is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafale’s RBE2 radar. It replaces the mechanically steered array antenna by electronically steering exerted by up to several thousand of transmit-receive modules which enable maximum performance and versatility as well as enhanced reliability. The radar is using about 1000 GaAs T/R modules and is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km
The RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar now replaces the previous passively scanned RBE2. The RBE2 AA is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar.
The front-sector electro-optical system or Optronique Secteur Frontal (OSF), developed by Thales, 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 beyond visual range distances; it can also be used for detecting and identifying airborne targets, as well as those on the ground and at sea. Dassault describes the OSF as being immune to jamming and capable of providing covert long-range surveillance. In 2012, an improved version of the OSF started being used operationally.
IR Search & Track systems for combat aircraft
Developed by Safran Electronics & Defense, the IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) are IR passive surveillance systems designed for automatic multiple target detection and tracking on combat aircraft. Unlike radars, they are totally passive, insensitive to jamming and guarantee absolute discretion for airborne missions. For example, Safran has developed the IR Search and Track channel of the Front Sector Optronics equipping the Rafale. The IR Search and Track channel uses sophisticated processing algorithms for the automatic detection and tracking of airborne threats and targets on the ground.
The “front sector optronics” (FSO) system is a passive electro-optical sensor developed for the Rafale multirole fighter. Safran Electronics & Defense is responsible for the infrared search & track (IRST) and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) part of the FSO, while Thales provides the daytime video channel and laser rangefinder. Using those two optronic channels, the FSO provides day/night, long-range detection, recognition and identification of air, sea and land targets. The FSO does not emit any radiation and is insensitive to jamming. Fully integrated in the aircraft’s nav-attack system, it provides tactical information and target engagement.
Its infrared capacities are essential during night flights, in particular for long-range target recognition. Source @safran-electronics-defense.com
Armaments and standards
Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/M791 autocannon with 125 rounds
Hardpoints: 14 for Air Force versions (Rafale B/C), 13 for Navy version (Rafale M) with a capacity of 9,500 kg (20,900 lb) external fuel and ordnance and provisions to carry combinations of:
Missiles: ** Air-to-air:
The MBDA MICA is an anti-air multi-target, all weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system. It is intended for use both by air platforms as individual missiles as well as ground units and ships, which can be equipped with the rapid fire MICA Vertical Launch System. It is fitted with a thrust vector control (TVC) system Range Air-launched 0.2–50 km at Mach 4R.550 Magic is a short-range air-to-air missile Range 0.3 to 15 km Infrared homingMBDA Meteor in the future
- MBDA Apache or
- MBDA Storm Shadow-SCALP EG or
- AASM-Hammer or
- GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-22 Paveway III or GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II
- GBU-24 Paveway III
MBDA Apache is a French-developed air-launched anti-runway cruise missile, manufactured by European arms company MBDA. The Apache system is at the base of the SCALP EG concept, notably for the aerodynamics and the stealth feature Range 140 km (French senate). Other sources state 100 km+ Speed 1000 km/h GPS-INSStorm Shadow is a British, French and Italian air-launched cruise missile, manufactured by MBDA. Storm Shadow is the British name for the weapon; in French service it is called SCALP EG. The missile is based on the earlier MBDA Apache anti-runway missile, and differs in that it carries a warhead, rather than submunitions. Range 300+nm (560+km) Lo-Lo profile Speed 1,000 km/h Mach 0.8 Guidance Inertial, GPS and TERPROM. Terminal guidance using imaging infrared DSMACThe Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon) (AASM) “Hammer” is a French Precision-Guided Munition developed by Sagem Défense Sécurité. AASM comprises a frontal guidance kit and a rear-mounted range extension kit matched to a dumb bomb. The weapon is modular because it can integrate different types of guidance units and different types of bombs. The basic version features a 250-kilogram (550 lb) bomb plus hybrid inertial navigation system (INS) / Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance. Other variants add infrared homing or laser guidance to increase accuracy; there are also versions with 125-kilogram (276 lb), 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) or 1,000-kilogram (2,200 lb) bomb bodies.GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb Mk 82 500 lb (227 kg) bombGBU-22 Paveway III Mk 82 500 lb (227 kg) laser-guided bombGBU-49 Paveway II laser-guided bomb BLU-133 500 lb (227 kg) bomb. Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-12GBU-24 Paveway III – Mk 84/BLU-109 2,000 lb (907 kg) class laser-guided bombAS-30L is a French short-to-medium range air-to-ground missile which employs laser homing guidance. The AS-30L was a development of the earlier 1970s AS-30 missile, which uses MCLOS guidance via a radio command link between the aircraft to the missile. The only difference between the AS-30 and AS-30L is their guidance systems. It was a precision attack weapon designed to be used against high-value targets like bridges and bunkers. Range 3 km (1.8 mi) to 11 km (6.8 mi) Speed 1,700 km/h (1,056 mph)
AM39 (air-launched) – B2 Mod 2: deployed on 14 types of aircraft (combat jets, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters). Range between 50 and 70 km, depending on the altitude and the speed of the launch aircraft.
- ASMP-A nuclear missile
The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP; medium-range air to surface missile) is a French nuclear air-launched cruise missile. In French nuclear doctrine it is called a “pre-strategic” weapon, the last-resort “warning shot” prior to a full-scale employment of strategic nuclear weapons. Range 300 km (500+km for ASMP-A version) Speed up to Mach 3
2 × Snecma M88-2 turbofans Dry thrust: 50.04 kN (11,250 lbf) each Thrust with afterburner: 75.62 kN (17,000 lbf) each
- Rafale D
- Dassault used this designation (D for discrète) in the early 1990s to emphasise the new semi-stealthy design features.
- Rafale B
- Two-seater version for the French Air Force.
- Rafale C
- Single-seat version for the French Air Force.
- Rafale M
- Carrier-borne version for the French Naval Aviation, which entered service in 2001. For carrier operations, the M model has a strengthened airframe, longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude, larger tailhook between the engines, and a built-in boarding ladder. Consequently, the Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C. It is the only non-US fighter type cleared to operate from the decks of US carriers, using catapults and their arresting gear, as demonstrated in 2008 when six Rafales from Flottille 12F integrated into the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Air Wing interoperability exercise.
- Rafale N
- Originally called the Rafale BM, was a planned missile-only two-seater version for the Aéronavale. Budgetary and technical constraints have been cited as grounds for its cancellation.
- Rafale R
- Proposed reconnaissance-oriented variant.
- Rafale DM
- Two-seater version for the Egyptian Air Force.
- Rafale EM
- Single-seat version for the Egyptian Air Force
UPDATE 2-Indian cabinet approves purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets: Here
Qatar Confirms Order for 24 Rafales: Here
- Egyptian Air Force – 24 on order. The first 3 two-seat Rafales were delivered in July 2015.
- A total of 180 have been ordered out of a planned 286, with an option for another 9. Approximately 150 are confirmed to be delivered by 2019. As of July 2014, 131 had been delivered.
- French Air Force – 91
- Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base
- Escadron de Chasse 01-007 “Provence” (2006–present)
- Escadron de Chasse 01-091 “Gascogne” (2009–present)
- Escadron de Transformation Rafale 02-092 “Aquitaine” (October 2010–present, French Air Force Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) jointly operated by French Air Force and French naval Aviation)
- Mont-de-Marsan Air Base
- Escadron de Chasse 02-030 “Normandie-Niemen” (2012–present)
- Escadron de Chasse et d’Expérimentation 05-330 “Côte d’Argent” (2004–present)
- Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE
- Escadron de Chasse 03-030 “Lorraine” (2010–present)
- Saint-Dizier – Robinson Air Base
- French Navy – 40
- Naval Air Base Landivisiau
- Flottille 12F (2001–present)
- Flottille 11F (2011–present)
- Naval Air Base Landivisiau
- Qatar Air Force – 24 on order
- Crew: 1–2
- Length: 15.27 m (50.1 ft)
- Wingspan: 10.80 m (35.4 ft)
- Height: 5.34 m (17.5 ft)
- Wing area: 45.7 m² (492 ft²)
- Empty weight:
10,300 kilograms (22,700 lb) (B)
9,850 kilograms (21,720 lb) (C)
- Loaded weight: 15,000 kilograms (33,000 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 24,500 kilograms (54,000 lb) (B/C/D)
- Powerplant: 2 × Snecma M88-2 turbofans
- Dry thrust: 50.04 kN (11,250 lbf) each
- Thrust with afterburner: 75.62 kN (17,000 lbf) each
- Fuel capacity: 4,700 kg (10,360 lb) internal
- Maximum speed: ** High altitude: Mach 1.8 (1,912 km/h, 1,032 knots)
- Low altitude: Mach 1.1 (1,390 km/h, 750 knots)
- Range: 3,700+ km (2,000+ nmi) with 3 drop tanks
- Combat radius: 1,852+ km (1,000+ nmi) on penetration mission
- Service ceiling: 15,235 m (50,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 304.8+ m/s (60,000+ ft/min)
- Wing loading: 328 kg/m² (67.1 lb/ft²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.988 (100% fuel, 2 EM A2A missile, 2 IR A2A missile) version B
- Maximum g-load: +9/–3.6 g
- Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/M791 autocannon with 125 rounds
- Hardpoints: 14 for Air Force versions (Rafale B/C), 13 for Navy version (Rafale M) with a capacity of 9,500 kg (20,900 lb) external fuel and ordnance and provisions to carry combinations of:
- Missiles: ** Air-to-air:
- ASMP-A nuclear missile
- Other: *** Thales Damocles targeting pod (see above)
- Thales AREOS (Airborne Recce Observation System) reconnaissance pod
- Thales TALIOS multi-function targeting pod in the future (F3R Standard)
- Up to 5 drop tanks
- Buddy-buddy refuelling pod
Avionics (See above)
- Thales RBE2-AA AESA radar
- Thales SPECTRA Electronic Warfare system.
- Thales/SAGEM-OSF Optronique Secteur Frontal infra-red search and track (IRST) system.
Source: Wiki/thalesgroup.com/from the net
Updated Nov 26, 2016
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