Rafale pilot ‘spills the beans’ on French fighters; Said “one of the best” but not as powerful as the Eurofighters

The Rafale fighter jet, the pride of the French defense sector, has seen many ups and downs throughout its journey, from being labeled a “cursed aircraft” to skyrocketing sales to the export in recent years.

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Today, the Dassault Rafale is one of the most sought-after combat aircraft in the world. The recent success of the Rafale fighters on the world market has resulted in a significant turnaround for the aircraft manufacturer.

Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of Rafale fighters, checked in an “exceptional” order intake of 16.3 billion euros ($16.6 billion) for the first half of 2022. This success is mainly attributed to the Rafale fighter jet.

Dassault Aviation surprised the global market in 2021 after the United Arab Emirates placed a historic order for 80 planes. The company claims that in April 2022 it received the first installment for Rafale fighters for the United Arab Emirates.

Greece also bought six brand new Rafale earlier this year.

Thus, 86 Rafale aircraft were ordered during the first half of 2022. The Rafale order book is 165 units. A contract for 42 Rafale (6+36) was also signed with Indonesia. The contract will not count in the backlog as of June 30, 2022, as it will not come into effect until the first installment is received.

The French manufacturer has faced challenges with its supply chain that are delaying production ramp-ups. According to the company, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have affected the company, its suppliers and its customers.

“The impact of these two major crises generates uncertainties on the supply of energy, electronic components and materials, leading to an increase in inflation due to these real or potential shortages and a weakening of the supply chain, become a major risk, amplified by the ramp-up of our production”, Dassault said in a press release.

A streak of dashed hopes

In its early years, the Rafale jet was considered the white elephant of the French military industry. Although it had been the pride of the French army since the turn of the century, it could not be sold abroad and was considered too expensive.

A French minister even called it “too sophisticated” for export in 2007.

The French political establishment had to engage in lengthy discussions and negotiations for a single export order. The situation was so serious that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president at the time, had to establish a “war room” between the ministries of finance, foreign affairs and defense to continue to push the plane forward on the market. global.

He was too accused home from making insistent sales pitches while traveling the world, including when he took his wife, Carla Bruni, to Brazil. Still, the plane could not attract any buyers.

The fighter nearly received the first export order several times, but failed at the very last moment. A string of dashed hopes over deals with South Korea, Morocco and Brazil then baffled French leaders, even though the military intervention in Libya in 2011 demonstrated Rafale’s power.

Rafale in flight – Dassault Aviation

Gérard Longuet, then French Defense Minister, warned in December 2011 that Dassault would halt Rafale production by 2021 if it received no export orders.

The Rafale was not as successful as the company’s Mirage aircraft, which were popular in the 1970s. Many countries, including Oman and Switzerland, preferred the F-15K Slam Eagle, F-15SG Strike Eagle, the F-16C/D, the Gripen and the Rafale Typhoon.

How did the fighter jet manage to resurface?

One of the main obstacles to its export prospects was that it was more expensive than its American competitors. The Rafale was one of the most expensive fighter jets in the world, costing around 100 million euros, according to a 2011 report. study by the University of Toulon.

Its competitors, including the American jets, the Swedish Gripen and the Eurofighter, were relatively economical. France would have spent more than 50 billion dollars for the development of the Rafale, a large sum for a nation that annually spends around $60 billion on defense.

As the nation went through economic difficulties, this became a significant problem under President Sarkozy. Other factors were involved in addition to the cost that prevented the receipt of any export orders at that time.

Pierre-Henri “Até” CHUET, a former French Navy Rafale pilot turned keynote speaker, said in an interview with the EurAsian Times that “the plane was not ready to be sold, it was not completely ended.

The Rafale was, from the outset, marketed as a multirole and multimission platform. Yet initially not all computer systems, data and weapons systems were ready and operational.

Pierre-Henri “Até” CHUET

The Rafale was also supposed to guide and plant the bomb but was initially unable to do so, he added. However, the jet eventually evolved, reaching new capabilities between 2013 and 2015, when Pierre-Henri “Até” CHUET upgraded to the Rafale from Super Etendard in 2014.

Ate has a distinguished background in flying combat missions over Iraq and was the lead pilot for the 2017 Navy Rafale display at the 2017 Yeovilton Air Show.

“The plane was very different from what it was when it started. So initially when the plane wasn’t finished, to be honest, it didn’t sell very much. As soon as it became what it was for it was commercialized, it started selling,” he added.

Até also pointed out that “France is trying to maintain its sovereignty around its industry, and that takes time. You must have long programs to maintain your defense industry at a higher level.

This is exactly what the Rafale was designed for. Allow friends to maintain this high level of industrial capacity. Yet, it takes time. Therefore, it will take a long time for the programs to be completed and for the aircraft to be combat-ready.

What distinguishes the Rafale?

The Rafale, a generation 4.5 “omni-role” fighter aircraft, is now gaining a lot of ground on the market thanks to its operational capabilities, despite its historical inability to attract foreign customers.

In July 1986, the Rafale prototype took off for the first time. The aircraft is now praised for being a truly modern combat aircraft. It is one of the most advanced jets in the world thanks to its strong electronic surveillance and jamming technology as well as its electronically scanned array radar.

The twin-engine Rafale features a delta wing and a canard for better maneuverability and aerodynamic performance. It has a passive electronically scanned array called RBE2, a multirole radar. The radar is accompanied by an electro-optical target detection and tracking system called “Optronics Sector Frontal (OSF)”.

The Rafale is equipped with a SPECTRA electronic warfare and self-defense system, which protects the aircraft from air and ground threats and collects electronic intelligence.

For precise strike and imagery intelligence (IMINT) missions, the Rafale uses the Reco NG (AEROS) aerial reconnaissance and Damocles targeting modules respectively.

French Navy Rafale M

Até pointed out that the way all sensors and systems are integrated into the main central display distinguishes the Rafale from other aircraft of the same generation.

The former Rafale pilot said that “just by using this central screen you will be able to have the moving map, you will be able to see through the 2D and 3D radar, you will be able to see DataLink transferring data from other aircraft links 16 aircraft, your electronic countermeasure (ECM) and electronic information, you can have it all on one screen, making it extremely easy for the pilot to decide and have good situational awareness.

Understanding your surroundings, or what is known as situational awareness, is crucial in combat. He believes that “the plane was designed to provide it to the pilot. The pilot can switch screens, remove the map and move everything as he wishes.

The engines of the Rafale fighter jet are not the best in the world. Although excellent, the Typhoon fighter jet’s engines are superior, he said.

Até noted that “the Rafale fighter jet is an excellent aircraft and if you fully understand it and also understand your opponents, you will know exactly how you want to fight the adversary and you will be successful.

So overall situational awareness is the main factor, and that will make up for the engines not being as powerful as Typhoon.

M88 engine
M88 Rafale engine – Via Dassault Aviation

The global success of the Rafale

France finally found a buyer for its Rafale fighter jet in 2015. Then-president François Hollande announced Egypt’s purchase of 24 planes for 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion). of dollars). The Egyptian Air Force now has 54 Rafales in its fleet after Cairo bought 30 more from France in May 2021.

The country then said the new purchase would be paid for by a loan over at least ten years, but did not provide further details. Dassault, Egypt’s most advanced fighter, won the F-16 contract from Lockheed Martin.

This was an important development given Egypt’s long-standing relationship with F-16s and its position as the world’s fourth largest user of the Fighting Falcon.

Modernization of Qatar’s air force began in 2015. The country agreed to pay Dassault Aviation $6 billion to purchase 24 Rafale multirole jets. Another 12 Rafales were ordered in 2018, bringing the total to 36. Qatar also has an option to buy another 36 Rafales.

With a $2.8 billion contract for the purchase of 18 fighter jets, Greece has become the first country in Europe to buy French Rafales.

By 2022, Greece will have six new jets and 12 used jets from the inventory of the French Air Force. In March 2022, the country also announced the acquisition of six additional Rafale fighter jets, bringing the Hellenic Air Force fleet to 24 Rafale.

The Rafale and the Raptor flying together during a training mission in Hawaii. (via Twitter)

Croatia has also signed an agreement for the purchase of 12 Rafale fighters at the end of 2021 for nearly one billion euros. The state-to-state agreement includes the training of the Croatian Air Force and the transfer of 12 Rafale fighter jets and their parts from the French Air Force.

India announced its landmark defense deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation in 2015. Dassault is seen as the IAF’s favorite and a strong contender for the MMRCA 2.0 contract.

In addition, the Rafale fighter jet is in competition with the F/A-18 Super Hornet for a contract to supply multirole combat aircraft to the Indian Navy.

Indonesia has also ordered 42 latest-generation French Rafale fighter jets for its air force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara). The contract also includes logistical support and flight crew training.

Meanwhile, in a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also said to have Express interest in buying Rafale fighter jets from France.

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