Type Multirole fighter
Country of origin France
Manufacturer Dassault Aviation
First flight 4 July 1986
Introduced 4 December 2000
Produced The first production was initially in December 1992 then suspended in November 1995 then continued again in January 1997
Numbers built 93 units delivered as of December 2010
Unit costs Rafale C: €64 million, US$82.3 million (2008)
Rafale M: €70 million, US$90.5 million (2008)
Max speed Maximum speed: **High altitude: Mach 1.8+ (1,900+ km/h, 1,026+ knots)
Low altitude: 1,390 km/h, 750 knots
Max range Range: 3,700+ km (2,000+ nmi)
Combat radius: 1,852+ km (1,000+ nmi) on penetration mission
Dimensions Length: 15.27 m (50.1 ft)
Wingspan: 10.80 m (35.4 ft)
Height: 5.34 m (17.5 ft)
Weight Empty weight: 9,500 kg (C), 9,770 kg (B), 10,196 kg (M) ()
Loaded weight: 14,016 kg (30,900 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 24,500 kg (C/D), 22,200 kg (M) (54,000 lb)
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
Armament Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B cannon with 125 rounds
Hardpoints: 14 For Armée de l'Air version (Rafale B,C), 13 for Aéronavale version (Rafale M) with a capacity of 9,500 kg (21,000 lb) external fuel and ordnance
MICA IR/EM or
Magic II and in the future
MBDA Apache or
SCALP EG or
GBU-12 Paveway II or
AM 39 Exocet or
ASMP-A nuclear missile
Thales Damocles targeting pod
RECO NG reconnaissance pod
up to 5 drop tanks
The Rafale can also carry a buddy-buddy refuelling pod
The Dassault Rafale was born when the French Air Force and Navy was looking for a new aircraft to replace their air power in the late 1970s. The air force wanted a land-based air dominance fighter while the navy desired a carrier-based fighter.
At the time, France had a cooperation with four other nations to build a superior air fighter. However, as there were some disagreements, France quitted the cooperation and continued developing its own design which led to the born of the Rafale.
The Rafale is a multi-role and twin-engine jet fighter which designed by embodying groundbreaking aerodynamics and avionics, promising to keep air supremacy for its operators. In addition to domestic use, the Rafale is also prepared for export markets even though there is no order as of today.
The history of the development of Rafale
Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) and Marine Nationale (French Navy) were in need of new generation of superior fighters to replace their air fleet in the mid of 1970s. For the sake of reducing cost and as the specifications of the new fighter that they wanted were similar, The French Ministry of Defense called for an aircraft potentially superior for air-to-air and air-to-ground, all-day and adverse weather missions. The ministry required the aircraft to replace the roles antecedently did by several aircrafts, including the Jaguar, F-8P Crusader, Mirage F1C/R/T, Mirage 2000/N, Etendard IVPM and Super Etendard.
Dassault Aviation got the project on 13 April 1983 to develop Avion de Combat eXpérimental (ACX) which later became the Rafale A, a large delta-winged fighter and equipped with fly-by-wire flight control system. For fulfilling operational requirements as the French Air Force called for, Dassault built two variants: a single-seat seat, designated as the Rafale C, and a two-seat versions called the Rafale B. In 1991, French Air Force announced that it wanted 60% of the Rafale fleet is the two-seat version.
Political and economic uncertainty had caused suspension of the production of the Rafale in 1995 but then it resumed in January 1997.
Structure and Design
At a glance, the design of the Rafale is similar to the Mirage 2000 as it is a delta-winged fighter with active integrated canard to optimize maneuverability.
Some advanced avionics also feature in the Rafale, one of it is SPECTRA which defends the aircraft against ground and airborne threats as the SPECTRA demonstrates a software- based virtual stealth technology. The military operation in Libya in 2011 showed the capabilities of SPECTRA allowing French pilots did not need for SEAD support aircraft or cruise missile bombardment.
The Snecma M88 engines featured in the Rafale allow the jet fighter to perform supercruise with four missiles and a 1,250-liter belly drop tank. As a matter of fact, the Rafale M (naval version) can reach supercruise up to Mach 1.4 while carrying six air-to-air missiles.
In the cockpit, the Rafale uses a Martin-Baker Mark 16F “zero-zero” ejection seat which is capable of being utilized at zero speed and zero altitude. The seat is inclined 29° to improve G-force tolerance.
The pilot controls the aircraft with a side-stick controller mounted on his/her right-hand side and a throttle on his/her left, an incorporation of multiple hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. The Rafale cockpit will be developed with Direct Voice Input (DVI), so that the pilot can take action by voice commands.
The Rafale also features a reduced radar cross-section capability even though the jet fighter is not a stealth fighter.
The variants of the Rafale
- Rafale A – Built only as a technology demonstrator that first flew in 1986.
- Rafale D – Built in the early 1990s featuring the then new semi-stealthy technology for the French Air Force. The D letter stands for discret or stealthy.
- Rafale B – Two-seat version for French Air Force.
- Rafale C – Single-seat version for the French Air Force.
- Rafale M – Naval version, a carrier-based which built for the Aéronavale.
- Rafale N or Rafale BM – The variant production was cancelled. It was planned as a two-seat version for the Aéronavale.
Dassault Rafale Aircraft Carrier Operations
Rafale over Libya