Rafale pilot spills the beans over French fighters; Says “One of the Best” but not as capable as Eurofighter

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The pride of France’s defense sector, the Rafale fighter jet has seen many ups and downs in its journey, from being labeled a ‘damn plane’ to skyrocketing export sales in recent years.

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Today, the Dassault Rafale is one of the most desirable fighter jets in the world. The recent success of the Rafale fighters on the world market led to a significant turnaround for the aircraft manufacturer.

Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale fighters, listed an “extraordinary” order intake of 16.3 billion euros ($16.6 billion) for the first half of 2022. This success is primarily attributable to the Rafale fighter jet.

Dassault Aviation surprised the global market in 2021 after the United Arab Emirates placed a landmark order for 80 aircraft. The company says it received its first Rafale fighter deposit for the UAE in April 2022.

Greece also bought six brand new Rafales earlier this year.

In the first half of 2022, 86 Rafale aircraft were ordered. The backlog for Rafales is 165 units. A contract for 42 Rafale (6+36) was also signed with Indonesia. The contract will not be credited to the order backlog as of June 30, 2022, as it will only become effective after receipt of the first down payment.

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

“The impact of these two major crises creates uncertainties in the supply of energy, electronic components and materials, leading to a rise in inflation due to these actual or potential shortages and a weakening of the supply chain, which has become a major risk. boosted by the increase in our production output,” Dassault said in a press release.

A series of shattered hopes

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

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

The French political establishment had to go through lengthy discussions and negotiations for a single export order. The situation was so dire that Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of France, had to set up a “war room” between the finance, foreign and defense ministries to move the plane around the world market.

He was too accused at home making pushy sales pitches while he traveled the world, including going to Brazil with his wife Carla Bruni. Despite this, the plane could not find buyers.

The fighter jet came very close to the first export order several times, but failed at the very last moment. A string of dashed hopes for deals with South Korea, Morocco and Brazil then stunned the French leadership, although military intervention in Libya in 2011 demonstrated Rafale’s might.

Rafales in flight – Dassault Aviation

Gérard Longuet, France’s defense minister at the time, warned in December 2011 that Dassault would halt Rafale production by 2021 unless it received export orders.

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

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. According to a 2011, the Rafale was one of the most expensive combat aircraft in the world at a cost of around 100 million euros to learn from the University of Toulon.

Its competitors, including the American jets, the Swedish Gripen and the Eurofighter, were comparatively frugal. France is said to have spent more than $50 billion developing Rafale, a significant sum for a nation that spends about $60 billion a year on defense.

As the nation went through economic difficulties, it became a major issue under then-President Sarkozy. Other factors were in addition to the costs that prevented receiving export orders at the time.

Pierre-Henri “Até” CHUET, a former French Rafale Navy pilot-turned-keynote speaker, explained in an interview with the EurAsian Times: “The plane wasn’t ready for sale, it wasn’t completely ready.

From the start, the Rafale was marketed as a multirole, multi-mission platform. But initially, all computer systems, all data and all weapon systems were not ready and not operational.”

Pierre-Henri “Ate” CHUET

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

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

“The plane was very different from what it originally was. To be honest, when the plane wasn’t ready, it didn’t sell much. As soon as it became what it was marketed for, it started selling,” he added.

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

This is exactly what Rafale was developed for. Allow your friends to maintain this high level of industrial capacity. But it takes time. Therefore, it will take a long time before the programs are completed and the planes are combat ready.”

What distinguishes the Rafale?

The Rafale, a 4.5 generation “omni-role” fighter jet, is now gaining a lot of ground in the market thanks to its operational capabilities, although it has long failed to attract foreign customers.

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

The twin-engine Rafale has a delta wing and canard for better maneuverability and aerodynamic performance. It features a passive electronically scanned array called RBE2, a multi-purpose radar. The radar is accompanied by an electro-optical target detection and tracking system called Optronique Secteur 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 strikes and IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) missions, the Rafale Reco uses NG air reconnaissance (AEROS) or Damocles target pods.

French Navy Rafale M

Até stressed that the way all the sensors and systems are integrated into the central main screen sets the Rafale apart from other aircraft of a similar generation.

The former Rafale pilot said: “It’s only by using that central screen that you can have the moving map, you can see through 2D and 3D radar, you can see DataLink transmitting data from other aircraft links 16, your electronic Countermeasure (ECM) and electronic information. You can have everything on a single screen, making it extremely easy for the pilot to make decisions and gain good situational awareness.”

A good understanding of the environment, or so-called situational awareness, is crucial in combat. He believes that “the aircraft was designed to be available to the pilot. The pilot can switch screens, remove the map and move everything around as they please.”

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

Até noted that “The Rafale fighter jet is an excellent aircraft and if you understand it perfectly and if you also understand your opponents, you will know exactly how to fight the opponent and you will succeed.

So overall situational awareness is the main factor and will compensate for the fact that the engines aren’t as powerful as Typhoon.”

M88 engine
M88 Engine Rafale – About Dassault Aviation

Rafale’s worldwide success

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

The country then announced that the new purchase would be paid off with a loan over at least ten years, but gave no further information. Dassault, the most modern fighter jet for Egypt, won the bid over Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

This was a significant development given Egypt’s longstanding relationship with the F-16 and its position as the world’s fourth largest user of the Fighting Falcon.

The modernization of Qatar’s Air Force began in 2015. The country agreed to pay Dassault Aviation $6 billion to purchase 24 Rafale multirole aircraft. A further 12 Rafales were ordered in 2018, bringing the total to 36. Qatar also has the option to buy 36 more Rafales.

With a $2.8 billion deal to buy 18 fighter jets, Greece became the first country in Europe to buy France’s Rafales.

By 2022, Greece will have six brand new and twelve used jets from the French Air Force inventory. In March 2022, the country also announced the procurement of six more Rafale fighter jets, bring the Greek Air Force fleet to 24 Rafales.

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

Croatia has also signed a deal to buy 12 Rafale fighters at the end of 2021 for almost a billion euros. The intergovernmental agreement includes training for the Croatian Air Force and the transfer of 12 Rafale fighter jets and their parts from the French Air Force.

India announced its historic defense deal in 2015 to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation. Dassault is considered an IAF favorite and a formidable contender for the MMRCA 2.0 contract.

The Rafale fighter jet is also competing with the F/A-18 Super Hornet for a contract to supply multirole fighter jets to the Indian Navy.

Indonesia has also ordered 42 French latest-generation 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 call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have done the same expressed Interested in buying Rafale fighter jets from France.

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