Dassault Rafale
Dassault Rafale

TYPE: Multirole fighter.


PROGRAMME: Ordered (as Avion de Combat Tactique; ACT) to replace French Air Force Jaguars and (as Avion de Combat Marine; ACM) Navy Crusaders and Super Etendards; first flight of Rafale A prototype (F-ZJRE) 4 July 1986; first flight with SNECMA M88 replacing one GE F404, 27 February 1990 (was 461st flight overall); 867th and final sortie, 24 January 1994. ACE International (Avion de Combat Europeen) GIE set up in 1987 by Dassault Aviation, SNECMA, Thomson-CSF (now Thales) and Dassault Electronique, partly to attract international partners; none found. Four preproduction aircraft, as described under Current Versions (specific). Production launch officially authorised, 23 December 1992 (and 31 December 1992 for M88-2 power plant). First Rafale B and Rafale M ordered 26 March 1993; first production aircraft (Rafale B No. 301) flew 24 November 1998 and made 'inaugural' (official) first flight 4 December; to CEV at Istres, early 1999, for development of F2 production standard. First production Rafale M (No. 1) flew at Bordeaux 7 July 1999. Rafale had by then accumulated over 4,000 sorties.

Test airframe, in Rafale M configuration, delivered to CEAT at Toulouse for ground trials 10 December 1991. Between 17 December 1991 and 2 March 1993, completed 10,000 simulated flights, including 3,000 catapult take-offs and 3,000 deck landings. Rafale structural validation achieved 15 December 1993.
French Air Force preference switched to operational two-seat (pilot and WSO) derivative of Rafale C in 1991; announced 1992 that 60 per cent of procurement to be two-seat, although 16 aircraft deleted from requirements at this time. Procurement target further reduced, as detailed in Customers paragraph. Two-seat version of naval Rafale announced September 2000.
Funding constraints and French government demands for cost reductions resulted in suspension of Rafale programme in November 1995 and temporary blocking of most 1996 funds. Plans were simultaneously abandoned for three progressively more sophisticated service standards of Rafale (Standard Utilisateur 0, 1 and 2) and replaced by a common French military standard and an export parallel, although three basic software standards (F1 to F3) will phase-in operational capabilities, as described under Current Versions (general). Work on production Rafales temporarily halted in April 1996. On 22 January 1997, Dassault and French defence ministry agreed on 48-aircraft multiyear procurement (1997-2002) in return for a 10 per cent cost reduction, effectively relaunching the programme. This initiative lapsed with the change of government after June 1997, but reinstated in January 1999, with firm orders for 28, plus 20 options, covering deliveries between 2002 and 2007. Contract awarded January 2000 for development of F2 Standard Rafale, representing first capability upgrade.
First production aircraft completed late 1998; second and third (No. 302 and Ml ) delivered to CEV trials unit late 1999/early 2000; M2 and M3 to Landivisiau naval air station, December 2000; first naval squadron, 12 F, formed 18 May 2001 and achieved planned strength of 10 Rafales in September 2002; first operational carrier deployment by four aircraft (M2 to M5) aboard FS Charles de Gaulle for exercise Trident d'Or in Mediterranean, 21 to 29 May 2001. Rafale B No. 303 is first for air force, in early 2004; first air force squadron to be equipped with 20 aircraft during 2006; 80th aircraft due in 2008,140th in 2011; final (294th) French delivery due in 2020.
Associated programmes include Thales electronic scanning RBE2 (Radar a Bayalage Electronique deux plans) multimode radar, ordered November 1989; test flights begun in Falcon 20 No. 104, 10 July 1992; first RBE2 flight in Rafale 7 July 1993 (B01) ; first production RBE2 flew on 16 October 1997 in a Falcon 20 before being refitted in Rafale B01 from November 1997. Development authorised in early 1999 of upgraded RBE2 version (full air-to-ground weapons capability) for 2003 delivery and installation in F2 standard Rafales.
Thales/MBDA defensive aids package named Spectra (Systeme pour la Protection Electronique Centre Tous les Rayonnements Adverses); wholly internal IR detection, laser warning, electromagnetic detection, missile approach warning, jamming and chaff/flare launching; nine prototypes ordered; total weight 250 kg (551 lb); Spectra trials begun on Mirage 2000 in 1992, while full suite installed in Falcon 20 No. 252 by Dassault at Istres between December 1992 and September 1994 before flight trials; Spectra flown in Rafale M02 on 20 September 1996 at launch of integration programme at CEV Istres. Development contract awarded 1991 for Thales OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) with IRST, FLIR and laser range-finder in two modules ahead of windscreen; surveillance, tracking and lock-on by port module; target identification, analysis and optical identification by starboard module; combined output in pilot's head-level display; initially tested in Mirage 2000BOB (which see).
M88 engine, which has flown only on Rafales, achieved type certification on 22 March 1996. First of initial production batch of 42 M88-2 engines delivered by SNECMA 30 December 1996. Conformal fuel tanks flight-tested in April 2001. Integration of Matra BAe MICA AAM completed 5 July 2000, after 27 launches.
Rafale offered for export; Greek evaluation in January 2000; model displayed February 2000 carried two conformal fuel tanks, each of 1,250 litres (330 US gallons; 275 Imp gallons), increasing range with two SCALP missiles to 1,000 n miles (1,852 km; 1,150 miles), hi-lo-hi. Rafale B No. 302 equipped with supplementary software to enable demonstration of LGB capability; test separation of GBU-12 bombs in April 2000, followed by live drop in October 2000. Offered in South Korea's F-X competition (40 aircraft), but unsuccessful against Boeing F-15K, early 2002.

CURRENT VERSIONS (general): Rafale B: Originally planned two-seat, dual-control version for French Air Force; weight initially envisaged as 350 kg (772 lb) more than Rafale C; 3 to 5 per cent higher cost than Rafale C. Being developed into fully operational variant for either pilot/ WSO or single-pilot combat capability. Serial numbers begin at 301. First two assigned to CEV.
Rafale C: Single-seat combat version for French Air Force. Serial numbers begin at 101. Deliveries beginning 2003.
Rafale D: Original configuration from which production versions derived; now 'Rafale Discret' (stealthy) generic name for French Air Force versions.
Rafale M: Single-seat carrierborne fighter; serial numbers begin at 1. Navalisation weight penalty, 610 kg (1,345 lb); has 80 per cent structural and equipment commonality with Rafale C, 95 per cent systems commonality. Navy's financial share of French programme cut in 1991 from 25 to 20 per cent.
Initial operational software standard for Rafale M, designated Fl , permits air defence missions against multiple targets using Magic and radar-homing version of MICA; self-defence provided by Spectra system. F2 will apply to both naval and air force Rafales delivered from late 2004 (15 M/Ns, 22 Bs and 11 Cs) and combine F1 with air-to-ground radar modes and the ability to launch IR- guided MICA, SCALP and AASM weapons as well as OSF electro-optics suite and MIDS datalink; operational in 2006. Funding for F2 development granted 31 December 1998; first stage of F2, known as E12, is OSF, SCALP and standard air-to-surface ordnance. First production aircraft, Ml , on loan to Dassault for F2 integration. Last of 35 single-seat naval Rafales to be delivered in 2008. In same year (operational 2009), F3 standard (see also below) provides full capabilities to naval and air force Rafales, including air-to-sea attack, AM39 and ASMP-A weapons, refuelling and reconnaissance pods, and helmet-mounted display. Unspecified and unfunded F4 envisaged for 2010, but early naval aircraft will all have been upgraded to F2 and F3 by 2008; Meteor AAM and associated electronically scanned radar antenna are key elements of F4.
Rafale N: Two-seat, dual control, naval version; also known briefly as Rafale BM; announced September 2000; prototype, No. 16, for trials in 2006; requirement for 25 aircraft within overall Navy purchase; first production aircraft in 2008; final delivery in 2012. Cost 5 per cent more than single-seat M; 250 kg (551 lb) heavier, but 260 kg (573 lb) less internal fuel; 85 per cent commonality with three previous versions; deletion of internal canon replaces 200 litres (52.8 US gallons; 44.0 Imp gallons) of fuel lost with addition of second seat.
Rafale R: Initial studies launched by procurement agency, DGA, late 1997, into stealthy sensor pod which would allow Rafales to replace Mirage F-lCRs and naval Super Etendards in reconnaissance role. However, French government declined to provide share of funding in February 2003 and industrial partners abandoned the programme in the following month.
Rafale Mk 2: Export version, under active consideration by 2000, featuring active antenna radar, M88-3 engines of 88.3 kN (19,850 lb st) each. Available from 2006; conformal tanks and Damocles laser target designator. Development cost estimated in 2001 as €1.3 billion; joint venture agreed in January 2001 by Dassault, Thales and SNECMA; offered to South Korea.

CURRENT VERSIONS (specific): C01: Single-seat Rafale C prototype, C01/F-ZWVR, ordered 21 April 1988; flown 19 May 1991; officially flight tested at CEV in October 1991, two months ahead of schedule; 100th sortie 12 May 1992. First Rafale gun firing, 5 March 1993; first Magic 2 AAM launch, 26 March 1993. Continued high AoA trials in 2000, having exceeded 30°. M88-2 Stage 4 engine trials in late 2000.
Second Rafale C order (C02) not placed; abandoned 1991.
M01: First navalised prototype, F-ZWVM, ordered 6 December 1988; flown 12 December 1991. Assigned to structural qualification, FCS and aerodynamic trials. Catapult trials ashore at US Naval Air Warfare Center, Patuxent River, and Lakehurst, 13 July/23 August l992; second series of US trials 15 January/18 February 1993 followed by deck trials on Foch; first deck landing 19 April 1993; first deck launch 20 April 1993, although first take- offs with 'jump strut' nosewheel leg began in following month; third US trials series 18 November/16 December 1993, carrying external loads; fourth series, October/ December 1995, including dummy deck launch at maximum weight of 22,300 kg (49,163 lb). On 8 June 1995, M01 made the first launch of a MICA AAM against an aerial target acquired by RBE2 radar fitted in a Rafale. Employed on development trials for F2 production standard. Total 438 hours in 723 sorties by October 1997. In storage 1999; Fl standard avionics trials in 2000.
B01: Two-seat dual-control trainer Rafale B prototype, B01/F-ZWVS, ordered 19 July 1989 as first with RBE2 radar and Spectra defensive systems; first flight 30 April 1993; first flight with RBE2 7 July 1993. Longest Rafale sortie, Istres to Dubai, November 1995: approximately 3,020 n miles (5,600 km; 3,475 miles) in 6 hours 30 minutes with three aerial refuellings (including one precautionary). Heavy configuration trials (23,400 kg; 51,588 lb, including two APACHEs) completed in February 1997. Total 990 sorties by mid-1999. First Rafale to fly with conformal tanks, 18 April 2001.
M02: Second naval prototype, ordered 4 July 1990: first flight 8 November 1993; assigned to operational and maintenance testing aboard ship and navigation/weapons trials. Joint carrier trials with M01 aboard Foch (second series) 27 January/4 February 1994. Third series of deck trials (M02 only) aboard Foch begun 17 October 1994 for three weeks (total 28 launches including two at night); included maintenance, electromagnetic compatibility, RBE2 radar and Spectra ECM tests. Fitted with model of OSF in late 1994, for vibration tests. Flew Singapore to Istres (6,300 n miles; 11,668 km; 7,250 miles) in under 15 hours, February 1996. First launch of Magic 2 AAM at moving target, 4 April 1996. Total 297 hours in 348 sorties by October 1997. With B01, employed by 1998 on development of F2 and F3 avionics standards. On 6 July 1999 became only second jet fighter (following Super Etendard) to land on new carrier FS Charles de Gaulle. Continued Spectra trials in 2000.

CUSTOMERS: Anticipated worldwide market for 500 aircraft in addition to originally planned 250 for French Air Force (225 Cs and 25 Bs) and 86 for French Navy; former service announced revised requirement for 234, comprising 95 Rafale Cs and 139 two-seat (pilot and WSO) combat versions, in 1992. Defence economies in 1996 included reduction of requirements to 60 Ms and Ns .
Naval deliveries began with No.2 to CEPA trials unit on 19 July 2000, followed by No.3 in September 2000; service familiarisation began 4 December 2000 when Nos. 2 and 3 delivered to Landivisiau naval air base; Landivisiau's 12 Flottille re-formed 18 May 2001 with four aircraft; first operational voyage began aboard Charles de Gaulle (commissioned 1999) on 1 December 2001, and Nos. 2 to 8 had embarked by 10 March 2002, when stationed in Arabian Gulf; Nos. 9 and 10 received mid-2002 and IOC then declared.
Balance of naval order replaces Super Etendards, 11 Flottille being first recipient, in 2005; third squadron to follow. Navy received 10 aircraft in Fl configuration (actually LF1, which upgraded to partial Fl in early 2002, incorporating some air-to-air capability, although full Fl , with cannon and MICA AAM, not due until late 2002) 15 F2s and 35 F3s, last in 2012, all to be based at Landivisiau.
Air Force deliveries originally planned for 1996-2009, including first 20 in interim configuration; two year postponement announced 1992; further slips in development funding delayed first receipts to 2002 and IOC to 2006, when first squadron to be established with 20 Rafale Bs. Only Air Force's first three aircraft 301, 302 and 101 (two Bs and one C) to Fl standard.
Official authorisation to launch production given 23 December 1992. Initial production contract in 1993 defence budget (formally awarded 26 March 1993), comprising one aircraft each for Air Force and Navy. Total 13 by 1996, while 1997-2002 plan envisaged 33 B/Cs and 15 naval versions (total 48) to be ordered (and two Bs and 12 Ms delivered), followed by orders for 15 B/Cs per year from 2003. In early 1997, French defence procurement agency, DGA, agreed with Dassault a multiyear procurement of the 48 aircraft in return for a 10 per cent cost reduction, but this later suspended. Authorisation to order the first 13 Rafales was only granted in May 1997, however. At the same time, separate plans were being formulated for acceleration into service of the first 10 air force Rafales to equip an export-promoting and operational trials (half) squadron, but those plans also soon abandoned. Eventually, go-ahead given on 14 January 1999 for 48 aircraft, including 20 options, these confirmed on 21 December 2001. Deliveries in 2003-08 five-year plan will be 57 to Air Force and 19 to Navy. Export versions of naval variant were available to potential customers from 1999 onwards. China expressed interest in 1996-97. By 2015 French Air Force combat arm is expected to comprise 140 Rafales in front-line units.

COSTS: Programme estimated at FFr155 billion (1991), including FFr40 billion for R&D; revised to FFr178 billion in 1993, FFr198.4 billion in 1995 and FFr202.37 billion in 1996. Last-mentioned total comprises FFr48.62 billion (of which 25 per cent paid by industry) for development, FFr17.583 billion for industrialisation, FFr76.25 billion for 234 Rafale B/Cs, FFr20.89 billion for 60 Rafale Ms, FFr37.812 billion for spares and FFrl.215 billion for simulators. Early 1997 agreement on 10 per cent cost reduction resulted in flyaway price falling to FFr282 million for a Rafale C, FFr299 million for Rafale B and FFr315 million for Rafale M. Total of FFr30 billion spent by 1995. Second production order for eight aircraft (1994/ 1995 authorisations) estimated at FFrl.5 billion, excluding engines, radar and weapons system. In 1998, however, new cost estimate for 294 aircraft was FFr320 billion as a consequence of programme delays. Cost (1999) of 48 aircraft given as FFr17.2 billion. Introduction of Rafale N version increased programme cost by €274 million.

DESIGN FEATURES: Multirole combat aircraft, rivalling Eurofighter Typhoon; designated "omnirole" to describe simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. Minimum weight and volume structure to hold costs to minimum; thin, mid-mounted delta wing with moving canard; individual fixed, kidney-shaped intakes without shock cones. HOTAS controls, with sidestick controller on starboard console and small-travel throttle lever. Wing leading-edge sweepback approximately 48°.

FLYING CONTROLS: Fully digital fly-by-wire controls with fully modulated two-section leading-edge slats and two elevons per wing; canard incidence automatically increased to 20° when landing gear lowered; airbrake panels in top of fuselage beside leading-edge of fin. Specification includes 30° AoA in stable flight.

STRUCTURE: Most of wing components made of carbon fibre including elevons; slats in titanium; wingroot and tip fairings Kevlar; canard made mainly by superplastic forming and diffusion bonding of titanium; fuselage 50 per cent carbon fibre; fuselage side skins of aluminium-lithium alloy; wheel and engine doors carbon fibre; fin made primarily of carbon fibre with aluminium honeycomb core in rudder. Composites account for 25 per cent by weight of structure and 20 per cent of surface area; weight saving directly attributable to composites is 300 kg (661 lb) - equivalent to a 1 tonne reduction in empty weight.

LANDING GEAR: Hydraulically retractable tricycle type supplied by Messier-Dowty, with single 790x275-15 (20 ply) or 790x275R15 mainwheels and twin, hydraulically steerable, 360x135-6 or 360x135R6 nosewheels. All wheels retract forward. Designed for impact at vertical speed of 3 m (10 ft)/s, or 6.5 m (21 ft)/s in naval version, without flare-out. Rafale M has same mainwheels; but 520xl40R10.5 nosewheels. Messier-Bugatti carbon brakes on all three units, controlled by fly-by-wire system.
Rafale M has 'jump strut' nosewheel leg which releases energy stored in shock-absorber at end of deck take-off run, changing aircraft's attitude for climb-out without need for ski-jump ramp. 'Jump strut' advantage equivalent to 9 kt (16 km/h; 10 mph) or 900 kg (1,984 lb) extra weapon load; not to be used aboard aircraft carrier Foch, which to have 1°30' ramp giving 20 kt (37 km/h; 23 mph) or 2,000 kg (4,409 lb) advantage. Dowry Aerospace Yakima holdback fitting. Naval nosewheel steerable ±70°; or almost 360° under tow. Hydraulic (Rafale M) or tension- stored (Rafale B/C) arrester hook. Landing gear management (braking and steering) by Thales computer.

POWER PLANT: Two SNECMA M88-2 augmented turbofans, each rated at 48.7 kN (10,9501b st) dry and 72.9 kN (16,400 lb st) with afterburning. Stage 1 standard engines in first 13 (Fl) production Rafales were limited to 300 hour hot-section TBO; Stage 4, flight tested from late 2000 and certified in December 2001, achieves initial 600 hours and intended for eventual 1,000 hours, had been retrofitted in all aircraft by late 2000. M88-3 of 88.3 kN (19,840 lb st) maximum rating offered as follow-on, and being developed for export Rafale.
Internal tanks in single-seat versions for approximately 5,700 litres (1,506 US gallons; 1,254 Imp gallons) of fuel. Rafale B internal fuel confirmed as 5,300 litres (1,400 US gallons; 1,166 Imp gallons). Fuel system by Lucas Air Equipement, Lebozec and Zenith Aviation; equipment by Intertechnique. Five 'wet' hardpoints: centreline, two inboard wing and two centre wing; all able to accommodate a 1,250 litre (330 US gallon; 275 Imp gallon) external tank; alternative 2,000 litre (528 US gallon; 440 Imp gallon) centreline and inboard; alternative conformal tanks on spine, length 7.50 m (24 ft 1/4 in); total capacity 2,300 litres (608 US gallons; 506 Imp gallons), and able to accept in-flight replenishment. Pressure refuelling in 7 minutes, or 4 minutes for internal tanks only. Fixed (detachable) in-flight refuelling probe on all versions.

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only, on SEMMB (Martin-Baker) Mk 16 zero/zero ejection seat, reclined at angle of 29°. One- piece Sully Produits Speciaux blister windscreen/canopy, hinged to open sideways to starboard. Canopy gold-coated to reduce radar reflection.

SYSTEMS: Technofan cockpit air conditioning system; Cryotechnologies avionics cooling system. Dual hydraulic circuits, pressure 350 bar (5,075 lb/sq in), each with two Messier-Bugatti pumps and Bronzavia ancillaries. Auxilec electrical system, with two 30/40 kVA Auxilec variable frequency alternators. Triplex digital plus one dual analogue fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated with engine controls and linked with weapons system. Air Liquide OBOGS; EROS oxygen system; L'Hotellier fire detection system; Microturbo APU.

AVIONICS: Provision for more than 780 kg (1,7201b) of avionics equipment and racks.
Comms: EAS V/UHF and Thales TRA 6032 SATURN UHF radios; Thales SB25A transponder/interrogator. TEAM intercom; Thales voice-activated radio controls and voice alarm warning system. Chelton aerials.
Radar: GIE Radar (Thales) RBE2 look-down/shoot- down radar, able to track up to eight targets simultaneously, with automatic threat assessment and allocation of priority. RBE2 AA (active array) version offered for export Rafales from 2006.
Flight: Thales TLS-2020 integrated ILS/MLS, VOR/ DME; SAGEM Sigma 95N (RL-90) RLG INS (SAGEM Telemir interface with carrier's navigation on Rafale M); Thales NC 12E Tacan interrogator; Thales AHV-17 radio altimeter and SFLM/Thales ESPAR static memory flight recorder. Thales GPS.
Instrumentation: Digital display of fuel, engine, hydraulic, electrical, oxygen and other systems information on two 127 x 127 mm (5x 5 in) lateral multifunction touch-sensitive colour LCD displays by Thales. Third cockpit screen is 20 x 20° head-level tactical navigation/sensor display. Thales CTH3022 wide-angle, holographic HUD (30 x 22° field of view) incorporating Signaal USFA OTA-1320 CCD camera and recorder. Both displays collimated at infinity. Thales/Intertechnique Topsight E helmet-mounted sight.
Mission: Thales OSF electro-optical sensors. MIDS (Multifunctional Information Distribution System) datalink (equivalent to JTIDS/Link 16). Various reconnaissance, ECM, FLIR and laser designation pods, including Thales Damocles target designator and projected Thales RECO-NG pod. Terrain-following system initially cleared (1999) to 152 m (500 ft); over land, reduced to 91m (300 ft) by 2002, plus 30 m (100 ft) over sea; eventual goal is 30 m (100 ft) land and 15 m (50 ft) over water.
Self-defence. Spectra radar warning and ECM suite by Thales and MBDA. Thales DAL (Detected d'Aterte Laser) system.

EQUIPMENT: Integral, electrically operated, folding ladder in Rafale M.

ARMAMENT: One 30 mm Giat DEFA 791B cannon in side of starboard engine duct (except naval two-seat). Fourteen external stores attachments: two on fuselage centreline, two beneath engine intakes, two astride rear fuselage, six under wings and two at wingtips; of these, five stressed for heavy stores and fuel tanks. Forward centreline position deleted on Rafale M. Normal external load 6,000 kg (13,228 lb); maximum permissible, 9,500 kg (20,944 lb); see weapon options table. In strike role, one ASMP standoff nuclear weapon. In interception role, up to eight MICA AAMs (with IR or active homing) and two underwing fuel tanks; or six MICAs and three external fuel tanks. In air-to-ground role, typically sixteen 227 kg (500 lb) bombs, two MICAs and two 1,250 litre (330 US gallon; 275 Imp gallon) tanks: or two APACHE standoff weapon dispensers, two MICAs and three tanks; or FLIR pod, Atlis laser designator pod, two 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) laser-guided bombs, two AS.30L laser ASMs , four MICAs and single tank. In anti-ship role, two Exocet sea- skimming missiles, four MICAs and two external fuel tanks. Future weapons will include AASM (Armement Air- Sol Modulaire) powered LGB.


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