Rafale Dassault France
Multirole Fighter Aircraft ; Variants: Rafale A;Rafale D; Rafale B; Rafale C; Rafale M; Rafale N

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Dassault Rafale

The Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. It is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based naval operation with the French Navy. The aircraft has undergone a protracted development, for mostly political and economic rather than technical reasons; the first demonstrator flight was in 1986 but the first production aircraft entered service only in 2002. No foreign sales have yet transpired.
The Rafale carries, for the first time in aviation history, an integrated electronic survival system named SPECTRA which features a software-based virtual stealth technology.

1 History
2 Variants
2.1 Rafale A
2.2 Rafale D
2.3 Rafale B
2.4 Rafale C
2.5 Rafale M
2.6 Rafale N

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Role Multi-role fighter aircraft
Crew 1 or 2
First Flight 1986 (demonstrator)
Entered Service 2002
Manufacturer Dassault Aviation
Length 15.30 m 50 ft 2 in
Wingspan 10.90 m 35 ft 9 in
Height 5.34 m 17 ft 6 in
Wing area 46 m? ft?
Empty 9,060 kg 19,975 lb
Loaded 14,710 kg 32,430 lb
Maximum takeoff 19,500 kg 42,990 lb
Engines 2 ? Snecma M88-3 (series)
Thrust n/d kN (mil.)
87.68 kN (aft.)

19,710 lbf
Maximum speed 2125 km/h 1321 mph
Combat range 1850 km 1150 miles
Ferry range km miles
Service ceiling 16,750 m 55,000 ft
Rate of climb m/min ft/min
Wing loading 320 kg/m? 65.6 lb/ft?
Thrust/Weight 5.96 N/kg 0.608 lbf/lb
Avionics Thales RBE2 radar
Thales Spectra aircraft survival system
Thales/SAGEM OSF infrared search and track system
Guns 1 30 mm GIAT 30/719B cannon
Bombs Conventional bombs
Missiles 8 AAMs - MICA, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, AIM-120 AMRAAM
air-to-ground weapons inc. MBDA Apache, MBDA Meteor, SCALP EG,
ASMP nuclear missile

In the early 1980s, both the French Air Force (Arm?e de l'Air) and Navy (A?ronavale) had a requirement (the Navy's being rather more pressing) to find a new generation of fighter, and their requirements were similar enough to be merged into one project. This requirement was initially to be met by the Future European Fighter Aircraft (F/EFA) involving Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Differences soon emerged in the project, carrier capability was specific to France only and while France wanted an offensive ground-attack aircraft with secondary air-to-air role the other nations had air-to-air as their primary mission. Dassault was authorised to work on a technology demonstrator in 1983 named the Rafale ("Burst"). The final divergence came in 1985, following French demands for far ranging control of the F/EFA project, including all senior roles within the joint company. France announced its intention to leave the project and committed to the national Rafale. Its former partners continued their collaboration on what was to become the Eurofighter Typhoon.

This Rafale A was rolled out in late 1985 and flying in mid 1986. The SNECMA M88 engines being developed were nowhere near ready, so the demonstrator flew with General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofans as used on the F/A-18 Hornet. The demonstrator impressed the French Ministry of Defence enough to place production orders in 1988. Further testing continued, including carrier touch-and-go landings and test-flying early M88 engines, before the Rafale A was retired in 1994.

Three versions of Rafale were in the initial production order:

Rafale C (Chasseur) Single-seat fighter for the Arm?e de l'Air
Rafale B (Biplace) Two-seat fighter for the AdA
Rafale M (Marine) Single-seat carrier fighter for the A?ronavale
The prototype Rafale C flew in 1991, the first of two Rafale M prototypes flew later that year, the prototype Rafale B flew in early 1993 and the second Rafale M prototype flew later that year. Catapult trials were initially carried out at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey, USA, France having no land-based catapult test facility.

Initially the Rafale B was to be just a trainer, but Gulf War and Kosovo experience showed that a second crewmember is invaluable on strike and reconnaissance missions, and therefore more Rafale Bs were ordered, replacing some Rafale Cs. A similar decision was made by the Navy, who initially did not have a two-seat aircraft on order; this was at first called the Rafale BM but soon became the Rafale N.

Political and economic uncertainty meant that it was not until 1999 that a production Rafale M flew. The marine version has priority since the aircraft it is replacing are much older, especially the Vought F-8 Crusader fighter which is a 50 year old design. Service deliveries began in 2001 and the first squadron became fully operational on the Charles de Gaulle in 2002.


Rafale A
This was a technology demonstrator that first flew in 1986, as described above. It has now been retired.

Rafale D
Dassault used this designation (D for discret or stealthy) in the early 1990s for the production versions for the Arm?e de l'Air, to emphasize the new semi-stealthy features they had added to the design.

Rafale B
This is the 2-seater version for the Arm?e de l'Air; to enter service in 2004.

Rafale C
This is the single-seat version for the Arm?e de l'Air; was delivered in June 2004.

Rafale M
Strengthened to withstand the rigors of carrier-based aviation
Stronger landing gear
Longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude for catapult launches
Deleted front center pylon (to give space for the longer gear)
Large stinger-type arresting hook between the engines
Built-in power operated boarding ladder
Carrier microwave landing system
"Telemir" inertial reference platform that can receive updates from the carrier systems.
The Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C. Unusually for a carrier-based plane, it does not have folding wings. This was to save money by increasing commonality with the land-based Rafales.

The initial deliveries have been F1 (Fase 1 - Phase 1) aircraft, capable of only air-to-air combat with no air-to-ground capability, to replace the ageing F-8 Crusader in the carrier-based fighter role. Additional deliveries of F2 air-to-ground capable aircraft will replace the Dassault Super Etendard in the attack role and the Dassault Etendard IVP in the reconnaissance role, leaving the Rafale M and Rafale N as the only armed fixed-wing aircraft flown by the A?ronavale. F3 aircraft will have terrain-following 3D radar and nuclear capability.

Rafale N
The Rafale N, originally called the Rafale BM, is a 2-seater version for the A?ronavale. Originally the A?ronavale did not plan to acquire any 2-seaters for combat purposes, but experience in the Gulf and Kosovo taught the usefulness of a second crewmember.

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


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