Dassault Rafale: the most lethal non-stealthy fighter in the world


Because the only 5th generation fighter in service yet is, as of today, the F-22 Raptor – the Russian PAKFA and the Chinese J-20 and J-31 haven’t entered service yet – the era of Generation #4+ fighters hasn’t ended yet, and these fighters will still be quite useful until then. Indeed, these fighters will retain military utility (absent double-digit SAMs) for some time even after the eventual introduction of the PAKFA, J-20, and J-31.

And among these aircraft, the French Dassault Rafale is, without doubt, the most capable and most lethal one. This post will look at this interesting airplane briefly and then compare it to its foreign competitors.

Introduction

The Rafale (French: squall) program was initiated in the late 1970s by the Giscard d’Estaing administration as a replacement for the Super Etendard, Mirage F1, Mirage III, and Mirage V aircraft already in service and the Mirage 2000 multirole fighters which were in the advanced design and production phase (they entered service in 1984). The Rafale first flew in 1986 and entered service in 2001.

The Rafale is designed to meet the needs of two services. The French Air Force, the world’s oldest (established in 1909), needs an affordable multirole fighter to protect national airspace and conduct strikes against a variety of ground targets: fixed structures as well as moving targets – ranging from enemy tanks and APCs to air defense system batteries and ballistic missile launchers to insurgents.

The French Navy wants an aircraft capable of the same range of ground strikes, but also one capable of defending the fleet from air attack and winning air superiority in environments where the French Air Force does not have access to any airfields.

Additionally, both services want an aircraft capable of carrying the ASMP and ASMP-A stealthy cruise missile with a nuclear warhead – currently the TN-88, and later the TNA (Tete Nucleaire Aerienne, i.e. Aerial Nuclear Warhead), as a part of France’s nuclear deterrent – France’s only defense against the most catastrophic threats.

Barack Obama’s drive to unilaterally disarm the United States, confirmed last week in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate, shows that America’s nuclear umbrella can no longer be counted upon by anyone, because Obama and his extremely leftist party base are determined to scrap it unilaterally. Yet, there is zero chance of there ever being a world without nuclear weapons. In fact, Obama’s legacy will be a world with more nuclear weapons (but not American ones) and more nuclear-armed states in it.

This means that France cannot, under any circumstances, afford to scrap its nuclear arsenal or to cut any further. If anything, France will need to increase it. Hence, the need for a French national nuclear deterrent.

France is very, very fortunate that it has an independent nuclear deterrent, produced entirely in France of French components by French hands. France would’ve been in a terrible situation if she were dependent on the United States for any of these components like the UK is. Obama’s America could’ve simply denied France such components, just like the Kennedy Administration initially did to the UK by cancelling the Skybolt missile. But even the pro-British Reagan Administration was initially reluctant to supply Trident-II SLBMs to Britain in the 1980s.

France, on the other hand, produces all of the components for its nuclear deterrent – the warheads, the missiles, the planes, and the submarines – itself. And the Rafale is one of those components.

Combat performance

The Rafale has already proven itself in three different wars. In Afghanistan, it performed numerous ground strikes against the Taleban, sometimes with GBU-12 Paveway II bombs used against Taleban caves. In Libya, it successfully evaded Qaddafi’s woefully obsolete 1960s-vintage Soviet air defense systems and led the fight against his regime. Most recently, in Mali, the Rafale flew long distances to perform strikes against Islamic insurgents.

Thus, the Rafale is a veteran of three wars despite entering service only a little more than a decade ago, a stark distinction to all of its competitors except the Super Hornet, none of which have seen any combat whatsoever, even against obsolete Soviet air defense systems or insurgents unable to contest control of the air.

Armament, sensors, powerplant, aerodynamic and kinematic performance

The Rafale can carry more ordnance than any of its competitors, hands down. The Air Force variants (B and C) have 14, and the Navy (M) variant, 13 hardpoints. By contrast, the F-35 can carry only 4 munitions (e.g. missiles) while in its stealthy mode; the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-16 can carry only 11, and the Su-35 twelve.

For air-to-air combat, the Rafale’s two principal missiles are the MBDA’s MICA (Missile d’Interception, de Combat et d’Autodefense) and Meteor. The MICA is intended for short and medium range combat, with a nominal range of 80 kms, and has both electromagnetic and infrared seekers. The Meteor, with a 160 km range, is a radar-guided long-range (Beyond Visual Range) ramjet-powered missile similar to the American AIM-120D AMRAAM. The principal difference, of course, is the Meteor’s ramjet engine. The French MOD has already ordered 200 such missiles.

This diversity of missiles and seekers will allow a Rafale pilot to saturate his opponent in combat with a salvo of 3 different missiles at once (and remember, the Rafale can carry 13-14 missiles in total). This means his opponent, forced to duck one of the missiles, would be detected by another missile’s seeker, and thus be shot down.

Furthermore, the Rafale has the biggest gun on the market (ex aequo with Sukhoi aircraft): a hefty 30mm GIAT gun firing incendiary rounds. This makes the Rafale an excellent choice for both air to air and air to ground combat, as its 30mm rounds would provide excellent support for troops on the ground. 30mm is the caliber of the guns of most APCs and IFVs.

For air to ground combat, the Rafale can carry the GBU-12 and GBU-49 Paveway II, the GBU-24 Paveway III, the Sagem AASM bomb (with a range of 55 meters and a CEP of less than 1 meter, designed to attack both static and mobile targets), the MBDA Apache and Scalp-EG cruise missiles (designed for attacking targets such as the runways of heavily defended airfields from a distance outside the range of their air defense systems), the Exocet AM39 anti-ship transonic cruise missile, and the forementioned ASMP and ASMP-A stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

In short, the Rafale can carry a wide range of weapons, and perform air to air, air to ground, and air to sea combat well.

In particular, its Exocet missiles would, in any anti-ship battle, prove very deadly, as they did when launched by Argentine A-4 Skyhawks against British warships during the 1982 Falklands War. The warships of virtually all navies of the world are currently poorly prepared for the ASCM threat.

The Rafale’s two principal sensors are the Thales RBE2 ESA radar and the Thales/SAGEM OSF (Optronique Spherique Frontal) infrared search and tracking system (IRST system).

The Dassault Rafale is a relatively small, light airplane. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that its wing loading ratio (the ratio of its weight compared to its wingspace) is just 306 kg/sq m, the second lowest ratio on the market after the JAS-39 Gripen. Its combat radius is also impressive – 1,852 kilometers, again, the second-best in the market trailing only the F-15C/D. The Rafale also has an excellent rate of climb – 304 m/s, i.e. 60,000 ft/min. This means the plane can climb to its service ceiling (55,000 ft) in a minute.

The plane’s two SNECMA MM-2 turbofan engines provide a dry thrust of 50.4 kN each, or 75.62 kN (17,000 lbf) each on afterburner. This gives the plane a very good thrust/weight ratio of 0.988:1 in full combat load – unheard of for a modern fighter, and fully competitive even with 5th generation American, Russian, and Chinese fighters.

The one thing that somewhat lets the Rafale down – other than its 55,000 ft ceiling – is its speed of Mach 1.8, compared to Mach 2 or more for most other fighters. However, its principal competitor, the F-35, is worse at just Mach 1.61 and 43,000 ft. Moreover, it is not a mechanical flaw, but rather the product of a deliberate design aimed to optimise the Rafale for the by far predominant type of aerial combat – namely, close, within visual range combat. In that regime of A2A warfare, neither speed nor ceiling would be a significant issue; the predominant factors are agility, pilot visibility, sensors, gun caliber, and the quality and quantity of WVR, infrared-guided missiles.

And by these factors, the Rafale is the best, with a superlative wingloading ratio, excellent pilot visibility in all direction, superlative radar and IR sensors, a 30 mm gun (the biggest fighter gun caliber in the market), and a load of up to 14 (but usually 10-12) MICA infrared- and electromagnetically-guided missiles with a range of up to 80 kms.

IR-guided WVR missiles typically have a Probability of Kill of 74%, according to research by Air Power Australia. Therefore, if a Rafale fighter begins a mission armed with 2 Meteor and 12 MICA missiles, then, even if its 2 Meteors hit nothing, its 12 MICA missiles will kill 8 enemy aircraft.

Comparison with the competitors

In comparison with the Dassault Rafale, all of its Generation 4+ competitors, with the limited exception of the Typhoon, look miserably.

The F-35 Lightning II – marketed by Lockheed Martin as a stealthy multirole fighter that can do everything and meet the needs of three US Services and many allied countries – fails the test miserably. Its wing loading ratio is 481 kg/sq m even at a 50% combat load, and 529 kg/sq m in full combat load, making it way too heavy for close combat. Its speed of Mach 1.61 and ceiling of 43,000 ft are decisively inferior to that of the Rafale (and all other Generation 4+ and 5th generation fighters in the world), as is its maximum combat load (in stealthy mode) of 4 missiles. Even in nonstealthy mode, it can carry only 8 missiles.

Moreover, the F-35 is “stealthy” only in the X-band, and only from the front and the up. From the belly and the rear, it isn’t stealthy at all, due to its deeply sculpted belly and its round, nonstealthy, muffin-shaped engine (which could be destroyed with a single round from the Rafale’s 30mm gun, thus bringing the F-35 down).

The F-35 program, in short, is nothing but a Ponzi scheme designed to earn Lockheed Martin money at the expense of US and overseas taxpayers.

The F/A-18E/F Super Bug, sometimes touted in the US and Canada as an alternative to the F-35, also fails the comparison miserably, with its aerodynamic and kinematic performance also decisively inferior to the Rafale’s. It has a wing loading ratio of 459 kg/sq m even with a mere 50% combat load; a T/W ratio (at full load) of just 0.93:1, well below the 0.99:1 of the Rafale. Its service ceiling is only 50,000 ft – 5,000 less than for the Rafale. Its rate of climb is a pathetic 228 m/s, and its combat radius a paltry 722 kms. And it can withstand only 7.6 Gs, while the Rafale can withstand a full 9Gs, the most a human pilot can withstand.

In short, both the F-35 and the F/A-18E/F Super Bug are decisively inferior to the Dassault Rafale. Buying either of these aircraft is a recipe for military inferiority and for losing control of the air. Both of them also have a tinier gun – only 20mm caliber.

The JAS-39 Gripen can compete with the Rafale only in the close combat regime, with a wingloading ratio of 283 kg/sq m (the lowest on the market) and a T/W ratio of 0.97:1 at full load (still inferior to the Rafale). It also has a decent max speed of Mach 2. However, its combat radius is very small, at just 800 kms, and it can carry only 8 missiles – as opposed to the Rafale’s 13-14. This means that, in combat against the Gripen, a Rafale pilot would get as many as 5-6 freebie shots at the Gripen.

Most troublingly of all, the Gripen, like the Super Bug, has a ceiling of only 50,000 ft – it can fly no higher than that. This makes it a non-player in the BVR regime, like the previous two competitors. Their missiles, to hit a Rafale, would have to climb steeply uphill, while the Rafale’s superior max ceiling would add to the nominal range of its missiles.

The next competitor is the F-15SE Silent Eagle. This aircraft, however, is not a development from the F-15C/D  air superiority Eagle, but rather, the F-15E Strike Eagle, and has mostly the same performance parameters. It has decisively inferior thrust/weight (0.93:1) and rate of climb (254 m/s, 50,000 ft/min) ratios. Its gun’s caliber is only 20mm. Its service ceiling, at 60,000 feet, is not much better than the Rafale’s, and its combat radius, 1,840 kms, is essentially the same as the Rafale’s.

The only significant advantage it has over the French fighter is speed: over Mach 2.5+. This, by itself, however, is not enough to make it a better fighter, nor to make it a good air superiority fighter. This is no surprise, because, as its name says, the Strike Eagle is intended to be a strike jet, not an air superiority fighter.

The next rival is the Sukhoi Flanker family, the most capable member of which is the newest one – the Su-35. Like the F-15E/SE, its only significant advantage over the Rafale is speed – and at only Mach 2.25, it’s even less pronounced than with the F-15E/SE. Its service ceiling (59,100 ft) is not much better than the Rafale’s (55,000 ft).

Meanwhile, its wingloading ratio, at 408 kg/sq m, is disastrously inferior to the French fighter’s 304 kg/sq m, making the Su-35 a non-player in within visual range combat where any Rafale is present, and an inferior rate of climb at 280 m/s. Its stated thrust/weight ratio of 1.13:1 refers to a 50% combat load only, not to a full combat load, the data for which is unavailable but may very well be inferior to the Rafale’s. The only criteria in which the Su-35 has parity with the Rafale are those of armament – 14 hardpoints and a 30mm gun, exactly as with the Rafale.

And so we come to the Rafale’s last rival, the Eurofighter Typhoon. This aircraft has a good thrust ratio (1.07:1) at a full fuel and armament load, but it’s not much more than the Rafale’s 0.99:1.  Its rate of climb (315 m/s, i.e. 62,000 ft/min) and top speed (Mach 2) are also only slightly better than the Rafale’s and do not justify the Typhoon’s much higher cost (£125 mn per copy). The Typhoon’s service ceiling, 55,000 ft, is the same as the Rafale’s, the wing loading ratio (312 kg/sq m) is slightly inferior, and its combat radius is decisively inferior: just 601 km for a lo-lo-lo mission, and 1,389 km for a hi-lo-hi mission – better than the former, but still much less than the Rafale’s 1,800+ kms.

The Typhoon’s 27mm gun caliber is slightly smaller than the Rafale’s, and it can carry 13 missiles – the same as a Rafale M, one missile less than the Rafale B/C variants.

So the Typhoon is slightly better than the Rafale on 3 parameters, slightly inferior two, equivalent on two others, and decisively inferior on one. In other words, by most criteria, the Typhoon is either inferior or barely keeps parity with the Rafale – hardly a justification for the Eurofighter’s much higher cost.

Another advantage the Rafale has over the Typhoon, the Gripen, the F-15E/SE, and so far also over the unproven F-35C (which has suffered notorious tailhook problems and has never taken off from a carrier) is the fact that the Rafale can operate from aircraft carriers and has done so since 2001. The Typhoon, the F-15, and the Gripen don’t have a naval variant and the first two never will, as they are too heavy to operate from carriers.

So why has the UK never purchased the Rafale for its two new aircraft carriers undergoing construction?

Because of purely political issues: pressure by the Lockheed Martin Corporation and the British aerospace lobby. The former has successfully lobbied the UK government to stay in the F-35 program at a high cost to the British taxpayer, even though not a single F-35 will enter Royal Navy (or RAF) service for many years, if ever. The latter, for its part, was lobbying the British government to develop a navalized Typhoon variant, even though such an aircraft is not feasible without substantial changes to the Typhoon’s design, as the aircraft is simply too heavy for carriers.

This is why repeated French proposals to sell the Rafale to the UK have been rejected despite the significant warming of British relations since 2006 and especially since 2007 under President Sarkozy. Had the UK accepted the French offer in 2006 – at the same time when British ministers were begging the US to make the F-35’s development codes available to London – the Rafale would’ve been available for RN (and RAF) service by now. (And had the UK not delayed the construction of its two new carriers, the Rafale would’ve been flying off their decks by now.)

The Rafale was rejected for purely political, not military, reasons.

The reality confronting all nations that don’t have cozy relations with Russia or China is simple. They will either procure the Rafale – the best Generation #4+ fighter in the world – or they will see their air forces emasculated and rendered impotent, irrelevant, and useless. This applies, inter alia, to Canada, Australia, the UK, the UAE, South Korea, Poland, Spain, and others. For the time being, it also applies to nations that have friendly relations with Moscow and Beijing, such as Malaysia, Brazil, and Italy, because their PAKFA, J-20, and J-31 fighters won’t be available until later in this decade. While the Dassault Rafale is available right now.

87 thoughts on “Dassault Rafale: the most lethal non-stealthy fighter in the world”

  1. Very simplistic and misleading analysis. 5000 ft of service ceiling and 0,06 T/W advantage are hardly decisive factors. Wing loading too is only part of the story because induced drag of delta wings is a very real factor ignored. The fact that the BVR environment is more imprtant that than the within visual range environment is essentially ignored, I guess that is why essentially no thought given to the avioncs system capability (radar, hmd…). Do flying in Mali and Libya really prove Rafale is brattle proven. Maximum Mach number capability is a nice to have but essentially no combat time is spent above Mach 1.8 in any of the above airraft (with the excetion of, perhaps, the supercruise F-22).

    1. Very simplistic and misleading? Hardly!

      1) While a 0.06 T/W ratio difference is small, it is nonetheless given for the sake of giving the reader this information.
      2) 5,000 ft of service ceiling is a significant difference, especially if your aircraft can fly only at altitudes of 43,000-50,000 ft (F-35, Super Bug). This means your A2A missiles must climb steeply uphill, while the Rafale’s missiles’ nominal range is significantly extended.
      3) While the induced drag of the Rafale’s delta wings is a factor, the most important factor in WVR combat by far is wing loading. And by that metric, the Rafale is tops, unless a Gripen is present. The (much more expensive) Typhoon barely comes close and the sluggish, heavy F-35, Super Bug, and Su-35 are wholly outclassed by a big margin – especially in the case of the F-35 Junk Strike Fighter, AKA the Jet That Ate The Pentagon Budget.
      4) Yes, Rafale’s participation in three wars proves that the Rafale is “war proven”. Three wars should be good enough for anyone, especially for a plane that entered service just 12 years ago. The Typhoon, the Gripen, the Su-35, and the F-35 have not, so far, participated in any wars to my knowledge. Does this mean that the Rafale is ideally suited for every kind of warfare? No, but I did not claim that.
      5) Your claim that no combat time is spent above Mach 1.8 except of the supercruising F-22 is not entirely accurate. But for the sake of the discussion, let’s accept that assumption. That means no aircraft should get any points for being able to fly faster than the Rafale (top speed: exactly Mach 1.8). Moreover, remember that the F-35 is much SLOWER than that: the most it can do – and only with a fuel-gulping afterburner – is Mach 1.61. Which means that it can’t run away from a Rafale, and the French fighter can further extend the nominal range of its missiles.
      6) And so we come to the most absurd of your false claims: that BVR combat is more important than WVR combat. The reverse is true, as then-LTCOL Patrick Higby documented in his thesis for the Air War College in 2005. As he documented therein, the VAST majority of the air kills scored by the USAF and the IAF in all air combat since (and including) Vietnam was in WVR combat with WVR weapons (Sidewinders and guns). Only a small minority was scored at BVR with BVR weapons.
      WVR combat is far more frequent, for a number of reasons, including the unreliability of radar-guided missiles, the large number of points in the BVR kill chain, fighters’ ability to duck BVR missiles, identification problems, and often the lack of clearance to shoot targets at BVR. In WVR combat, as the name itself says, you visually see the enemy and engage him at close range. Visually finding and identifying bogies is not the problem – outmaneuvering and killing them is. And other than the Gripefighter can do it better than the Rafale.

      1. with the price of a gripen at about half then you have 16 to 14 two will allways beat one and the gripen has hmd ready rafale does not

    2. Delta wings do cause high drag, but Rafale’s usage of close coupled canards means that it has very good lift/drag ratio.

      As for BVR/WVR combat, to expand on what Zbigniew wrote:
      – not only radar missiles were used less often than IR missiles, IR missiles always had twice the Pk of radar-guided missiles, and that despite the fact that vast majority of radar-guided missile kills happened within visual range
      – another reason (aside from what Zbigniew listed) why WVR combat is more frequent is the fact that you want to get into missile’s no-escape zone to maximize probability of kill. When you add time required to lock on, this means that even with BVR missiles many shots will be made WVR.

  2. Note: 74% Pk for visual-range missiles was achieved in same conditions as 34-46% Pk for BVR missiles: against non-maneuvering targets that were usually not aware they were shot at and were flown by unskilled pilots.

    1. Actually, during the Falklands, the Sidewinder achieved a Pk of about 74% when used against nimble, agile aircraft (Super Etendards and A-4 Skyhawks) flown by skilled, experienced Argentine pilots.

      In Vietnam, Sidewinders acquitted themselves well against NV pilots flying nimble MiGs.

      1. No aircraft is nimble with bombs, plus they were mostly attacked unaware from the rear. And even if they did notice the attack, their options were limited as they were regularly almost at bingo fuel.

      2. Mostly true. But these aircraft are very maneuverable, and A-4s were for a long time used as aggressor aircraft by the US military… and as such, regularly mopped the deck with F-14 Tom Turkeys, F-15s, and F/A-18s.

      3. BTW, Picard: today I’m beginning work on an article aimed to show, concisely, why the F-35 is not a good fighter nor a decent strike aircraft. If you believe you know of any facts worthy of mentioning that APA, Medium.com, and Military.com haven’t already mentioned, state them in comments on this site.

      4. Let’s start from the start, or “F-35 is a fifth generation, therefore inherently superior to fourth generation fighters”:
        http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/feature/135080/f_35-reality-check-10-years-on-%28part-1%29.html
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/fighter-aircraft-generations-issue/

        This is why I believe that US should use a non-stealth fighter (either Rafale or Gripen) as F-22 backup:
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/why-the-west-should-revert-to-kiss-principle/
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/stealth-in-the-air/
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/how-stealthy-is-the-f-35/

        About signature reduction:
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/aircraft-signature-reduction-measures/
        I didn’t include the F-35, but it is similar to J-20 in quite few ways.

        So much about F-35 cost decrease:
        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/aircraft-costs-2013-2015/
        – note that some expenses of the F-35A may have been transferred to the B and C variants to artificially decrease F-35As unit cost

        Few other links:

        http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/f-35-and-its-troubles/
        http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/stealth-turkey/
        http://lemdecal.com/F-35%20JSF%20Facts.html

        BTW, I believe that F-22s main advantage over other fighters in USAF inventory is not stealth, but supercruise, since it allows the F-22 to engage and disengage at will, choosing to engage only when at advantage – similar to Me-262 against Allied prop fighters in 1945. F-35 doesn’t have supercruise.

        And Pierre Sprey is right about the F-35s visibility issues. Even if that fancy helmet does work and provides spherical SA, it will still offer detection range significantly inferior to what human eye offers by itself.

      5. “I believe that F-22s main advantage over other fighters in USAF inventory is not stealth, but supercruise, since it allows the F-22 to engage and disengage at will.”

        Exactly. Especially since enemy ground air defense systems, which can cue fighters, have very accurate counter-stealth VHF and UHF radars, which can allegedly detect, track, and enable engaging stealthy fighters like the F-22 and the F-35. At that point, your best bet is to try to duck missiles – or to simply escape. The F-22 can do that, the F-35 cannot.

      6. Excellent study! Has Sprey updated it in recent years? Many new fighters have emerged.

      7. Though I might well do a more comprehensive article in the future, that one was a bit rushed, and as I said, I did make mistakes.

      8. No problem, mate🙂 Take your time to do a more in-depth analysis.

      9. First proposed correction for your post:

        The F-22 is not the biggest fighter on the market. The F-15 and the Flankers are. Also, the F-15 and the Hornet, Super Hornet, and the F-16 all smoke, although the F-16 less so than the other three. Finally, the F-35 leaves huge wingtip vortices and contrails which easily give its position away.

  3. So, in an ideal world, US, UK and France would have buy F-22 for aerial dominance and Rafale for, well, the rest ?
    In this ideal world, there would have been way more than 187 F-22 and 100+ rafales… which is a big issue.

    Sorry for my bad english.

    1. Not really, the F-22 can do the full spectrum of tactical combat missions, both A2A and A2G But unless a naval variant of the F-22 were developed, the Rafale would still be needed for carrier air wings🙂

      BTW – the French govt. better reverse its foolish 2013 White Paper decisions and allow the FAF to have way more than just 180 fighters.

  4. So, Pentagon needs to scrap the F-35 and develop a bomber version and a naval version of the F-22 ?

    But what about the VSTOL ? The Harriers of British and Marines need to be remplaced.

    And if it’s forbidden to export the F-22, how to repeat the world success of the F-16 ?

    I agree with the analysis of the mediocrity of the F-35, and I’m worried when I read that there are only 187 F-22.
    The Pentagon needs 500+ F-22, a modernized version of the A-10 (meanwhile an interesting UAV for the CAS in asymetric and symetric warfare), a naval and a bomber version of the F-22, a new VSTOL and a naval Apache (they can buy the Tiger, it’s the XXI century’s Cobra).

    1. To answer your questions in order, Xavier:

      1) Yes, the Harriers of the RAF/RN (now retired) and the Marines need to be replaced, and the F-35B variant is the only variant I support. That being said, the RAF, RN, and USMC need to reconsider whether this is the best a/c to accomplish their missions. It certainly isn’t well-suited for CAS or air superiority.

      2) Otherwise, the DOD should scrap the $391 bn F-35 program, resume F-22A production, give it an IRST and better missiles, start retiring the F-15, and develop a navalised F-22 variant. You see, apart from mines and submarines, the biggest threat to ships these days is from anti-ship missiles. Coastal batteries are limited by their range to areas close to the shore. But a/c like the Flanker or the H-6K or the Tu-22M can carry these missiles over a distance of over 1,000 kms before launching them, thus creating a vast no-go zone for the USN. The best way to defend against missiles is by killing the archer, not the arrows, so you need to shoot down those aircraft BEFORE they can launch their missiles. That’s what a naval F-22 would do, and that’s what the venerable F-14 Tomcat was tasked with doing before it was retired.

      3) The USAF does need to, and does plan to, develop and deploy a next-gen bomber, but that needs to be a dedicated bomber aircraft, not a variant of the F-22. You see, the F-22 has many strengths, but also one basic weakness: its limited combat radius (759 kms IIRC). That means if its in-theater bases are destroyed, it’s a sitting duck. The USAF is now developing a long-range strike bomber to strike enemy targets from distances of thousands of kms.

      4) For the time being, the DOD could (and should) simply prolong A-10s’ service lives, strengthen them structurally, and zero-time them – which would cost close to nothing. A-10s are also among the cheapest combat aircraft the USAF operates, so retiring them would save only a few pennies. Yes, for the future, the DOD could develop a UAV for CAS.

      5) I’m not sure why the Navy would buy naval attack helicopters akin to the Apache or the Tiger. What for? It would only duplicate what the Army has. BTW, the USMC is developing a 21st century Cobra, indeed – it’s called the AH-1Z Venom. No need to buy the Tiger or reinvent the wheel🙂

      PS: What do you think of my post on Miss France 2013?🙂

  5. BTW, two very little mistakes in your excellent post :
    – OSF means “Optronique secteur frontal”, frontal sector optronics.
    – IIRC, Exocets in the Falklands war were lauched by Super Etendards, not A-4.

    1. Yes, my bad, OSF stands for what you say it does, and Exocets in the FW were launched only by SEs. A-4s used dumb bombs to attack British ships. My bad.

  6. Tigers were very useful in libyan war.
    BPCs (french acronym for LHD) are less expensive than super carriers and can do the job in the majority of post-cold war era conflicts.

    After WWII, aircraft carrier and SNA were the new “capital ship” of the fleets.

    Now, they are always very important, but very expensive, and sometimes oversized for the missions.

    I think that BPCs and SSGNs are capital ships of the fleets, with SNA and carriers.

    Tigers and naval Apaches (like the british version of the Apache) are the backbone of this kind of fleets.

    1. Yeah, but why buy Tigers or Apaches when the Navy Department (namely, the USMC) already has Cobras and is procuring AH-1Z Venoms? Tigers were very useful for the French army in Libya… bc the French army already had them🙂

      Attack submarines are not too expensive nor oversized, and quite useful in hunting down enemy ships and submarines while still carrying a respectful and versatile payload. I agree on the BPCs – too bad the FN has ordered only 3 of them…

  7. What do you think about the FB-22 ?
    About long range bomber, B1 and B2 can do the job until remplacement by UAV bombers.

    PS : Frenchs are very proud of Marine Lorphelin. She’s awesome.

    1. Sorry, but the B-1 and the B-2 *cannot* do the job. That is to say, the B-2 can, for the time being, but there are only 20 of them in service, a woefully inadequate number for bombing countries like Iran, let alone China, and even their stealth tech is 80s/90s-vintage. Experts like CSBA’s Mark Gunzinger warn that the B-2 will lose its ability to penetrate well-defended airspace by the 2030s at the latest, and probably in the 2020s.

      The B-1 cannot do the job at all. Its huge, nonstealthy, and easy to shoot down. It’s also the most expensive of the three bomber types the USAF operates. Time to retire it.

      UAV bombers can’t do the job fully; they cannot, for example, be “trusted” to carry nuclear weapons or operate where communications are degraded, disabled, or disrupted, and the enemy may commandeer them if clever enough.

      The FB-22 was essentially a proposed bomber version of the F-22, but as I said, even if it were developed, its short range would’ve been a major drawback not justifying the cost.

      PS: Yeah, Marine Lorphelin is a wonderful girl🙂

  8. “The Su-35’s Irbis radar has more than twice the detection range of the Rafale’s Thales RBE2, and will lock onto its target well before the Russian plane becomes visible for a retaliatory strike. The 117S engines of the Su-35 are also far more powerful than the Rafale’s Snecma M88.”

    1. But the Rafale can carry more weapons (13-14 missiles), has a longer combat radius, and is far more agile with a WL ratio of just 302 kg/sq m. Also, you are ignoring the many signature reduction measures used when building the Rafale, and assuming that detection would occur only with radar, which is not true, bc planes can also be detected with (among other things) IRST systems. If the Su-35 uses its high-power Irbis radar, it will emit a lot of heat and thus be detected from quite a distance by the Rafale’s OSF IRST.

      1. There is also a little fact that Rafale, just like the F-22, can use opponent’s radar emissions for completely passive targeting.

  9. A fighter aircraft is a forces aircraft designed primarily designed for air-to-air combat opposed to other aircraft,[1] having the status of conflicting to bombers and attack aircraft, whose key mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its hurry, maneuverability, and insignificant size next of kin to other combat aircraft.
    Fighteraircraft

  10. The US will not be purchasing any more F-22 Raptors as long as the Democrats are in power. They would rather run up the debt by giving more people food stamps than care anything about the defense of America. It’s called buying votes. That is exactly how they won in 2012.

    1. Exactly, Frank! And that’s how they plan to win future elections as well. The Dems want to continue giving out handouts as a way of winning votes.

  11. “while the Rafale can withstand a full 9Gs, the most a human pilot can withstand.”

    French pilots have pulled up to 11 g on air shows and in training.

    “The one thing that somewhat lets the Rafale down – other than its 55,000 ft ceiling – is its speed of Mach 1.8, compared to Mach 2 or more for most other fighters. ”

    Mach 1,8 speed is maximum operational speed, maximum dash speed is Mach 2. In short, Rafale is just as fast as Eurofighter Typhoon.

  12. Renault / Nissan = Steering wheel fell of in traffic, brand new car. Plagued with electronic problems.
    Citroen = Door fell of on car no older than 18 months. Plagued with electronic problems.
    Rafale = Why would Rafale be any better then French cars? If they cant even get the electronics of a car to work, how are they going to cope with the demands of a fighter jet?
    Rafale= Citroen in quality, a Buggatti in price and a Formule 1 car in operating cost.
    One can operate 5 Gripens for each Rafale considering operation costs.
    In past all French military technology has proven to be inferior, main battle tanks, APVs, engines and so on. Why would the Rafale be any better?

    France is working together with Russians in developing military technology? What does that say about French technology?
    Why would one want to buy a fighter jet from someone that cooperates with ones no 1 enemy?
    The Rafale is a fighter for Russian allies like India and Belarus and not for western powers.

    1. The Rafale, for the reasons stated above, is FAR superior to the Gripen, and not much more expensive, costing only 67 mn euros per copy.

    2. You are just biased against the French and their military technology. In fact, in the past, French military technology, especially their tanks, fighters, and missiles have proven to be superb. The RN got a severe spanking with Exocet missiles in the Falklands.

      As for French cars, I’d take them over German, Japanese, Italian, or especially American cars (especially GM products) every products.

      1. Sold many Leclerc tanks have they?
        Sold many Rafale fighters have they?
        The RN lost got hit because their tactics was outdated, just as they them self has admitted.
        The French are working together with the Russian in technology development for the military, says all about the French.
        The worst crap is constructed by Russians, and then the French cooperates with them in development.🙂
        A French minister made the comparison that the Gripen was a Volvo and the Rafale was a Ferrari, and as we know Ferrari is a Italian car. Obviously even the French minister was of the opinion that the French can’t even build a car.
        American fighters are the best, second is the Eurofighter, third is the Gripen, fourth is the Rafale and last is the Russians.
        “As for French cars, I’d take them over German, Japanese, Italian”
        Thank’s for proving my point! :–)

      2. LOL, you don’t know what you’re talking about, Anders. You’re just biased against, and ignorant of, the French, the Russians, and their weapons (and other products).

        The French can’t even build a car? Really? I see quite a lot of Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen cars on European roads lately. My Sales Leader’s favorite pastime is racing in his Peugeot sports car.

        The French are not “cooperating” with the Russians in weapons production, they are building stuff FOR the Russians. Four amphib ships, to be precise. With those ships, the Russians, as their navy’s chief has said, could overrun Georgia in 40 minutes, not the 26 hours it took them.

        As for Rafale sales: India has already chosen the aircraft, it’s now the sole contender in the UAE, and once the UAE chooses the Rafale, Qatar and Kuwait will follow suit. Algeria wants the Rafale to replace its obsolete fleet of MiG-29s, Poland might be interested in replacing its own MiGs with the Rafale, and Malaysia is also strongly interested.

      3. Yes they build cars, cars that corrode in Nordic climate, the only car maker that has more errors than Renault and Citroen is Dodge (see Swedish and Finnish statistic on three year old cars).
        Of cause you see a lot of French cars on the roads, that doesn’t mean that they are good, they are just cheap to buy and the people who buy them doesn’t know that other cars are so much better because they don’t read the statistics.
        Statistics doesn’t lie, they are not good cars.
        NO, they are not only selling weapons to the Russians, they are developing together, for instance a new APV.
        The French is only building two Mistrals (who takes their basic design from a US version), the last two where supposed to be built under license by the Russians them self (though they admitted that they might not have the technical skill to do that.)
        A Peugeot race car, what is that? Go-cart?
        I’m sorry, nothing of quality has ever come from France when it comes to electronics. Just give me an example of French electronic that has revolutionized the world.
        You can forget that the Poles will buy French weapons, they don’t like that France is selling weapons to Russia, weapons that will be threatening the freedom of Poles.
        For the rest of them I have no clue but on the other hand they are no technically advanced countries from which you could draw any conclusions, they have a high rate of corruption though and maybe that says more about the alleged deals than anything else.
        French yogurt is good though, contains a lot of antibiotics and hormones but it tastes good.🙂

      4. Once again, you are blinded by your hatred of the French.

        My boss drives a Peugeot racing car, and I can assure you it’s not a go-cart. Miss France 2013 drives a Peugeot RCZ – look it up on the Internet. It’s not a go-cart.

        French cars are SAFER than those from other countries and they keep winning European safety awards. They’ve also contributed mightily to the improvement of road safety in France (which, as I’ve written here, could be improved still further if French drivers were to stop drinking before driving and to stop texting while driving, and to respect the rules of right of way).

        As for the Mistral class, it is an indigenous French design, MUCH cheaper than the decisively inferior San Antonio class. France will build at least 2 of the 4 ships on order.

        You’re damn right, though, that you have no clue about the other countries – you have no clue whatsoever what you’re talking about🙂 The UAE is hardly a technically backwards country, and its AF is already very familiar with Dassault a/c (it operates Mirage 2000s). Once the UAE selects the Rafale (now the SOLE contestant for its Air Force), Qatar and Kuwait will follow suit. Algeria, a former French colony, will also likely buy the Rafale, as will Malaysia. There’s also a strong chance Canada will select the Rafale as well, in lieu of the Jet That Ate The Pentagon Budget, if France provides full TOT and allows these jets to be built in Canada.

      5. Which car has the highest security rating ever in EuroNCAP, from which country does that car come? It’s not France🙂
        It’s the damn Swedes again, their cars crammed with German technology and Swedish safety concern.

        “The UAE is hardly a technically backwards country,”
        NO, of cause UAE isn’t littered with foreign engineers and specialists. It’s all people from the UAE that develops all their fighters, tanks, naval vessels and high tech radars. 🙂

        “…and its AF is already very familiar with Dassault a/c (it operates Mirage 2000s).”
        Which proves my point above.

        “Once the UAE selects the Rafale (now the SOLE contestant for its Air Force), Qatar and Kuwait will follow suit.”
        The only contestant but still they haven’t selected it… how does that work?

        “Algeria, a former French colony, will also likely buy the Rafale,”
        Ahh, no biased purchase there, absolutely no corruption.🙂

        “as will Malaysia. There’s also a strong chance Canada will select the Rafale..”
        Yes, yes and then the rest of the world to follow.

        Dassault will be closing shop very soon, no planes on the line…
        The french should concentrate their efforts on yogurt and perfumes.

    3. Swedish jets are crap, and comparing a car to a jet just proves how much you don’t know about combat aircraft. and cars, volvos are crap, and keep breaking down!

  13. I forgot:
    If you buy a Rafale today you will be paying a high price, a couple of years later that technology will be found in low cost Russian fighter jets.

    1. Not really a high price. It’s just 67 mn EUR per copy for a Rafale C jet – which is far, far superior to the Gripen, the F-16, the J-20, the F-35, and the Super Bug.

      1. 2014 unit flyaway cost for Rafale C is 92,7 million USD, and for Rafale M it is 109,6 million USD. This is cheaper than the F-35 (182 million USD F-35A, 252 million USD F-35B, 299 million USD F-35C), Eurofighter Typhoon T3 (129 million USD) and the F-15C (128 million USD), but more expensive than the Gripen (43 million USD Gripen C, estimated 57 million USD Gripen E), F-18G (69 million USD) or F-16C (71 million USD). J-20, being a stealth fighter and twice as heavy as Rafale, will definetly be far more – probably more than twice as – expensive.

  14. Rafale F3Rs features software enhancements to make full use of the RBE2-AA radar, Meteor long range air-to-air missile integration, SBU-64 dual mode laser/GPS AASM smart bomb integration, improvements to Thales SPECTRA self-defence system, and an Identification Friend or Foe interrogator/transponder with full Mode-5/Mode-S-compatibility. As of September 2013, the DGA started referring to these planes as the 4th tranche, and January 2014 saw full commitment to develop all of these upgrades for fielding by 2018.

    Efforts to include MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-air missiles are ongoing, but it won’t be ready until 2018. That will make Rafale the last European fighter to integrate the Meteor, about 3-4 years later than the JAS-39 Gripen. It will also be the only fighter with a 1-way Meteor datalink instead of a 2-way link.
    Source: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/frances-rafale-fighters-au-courant-in-time-05991/

    1. Thanks for posting this. However, the Rafale still remains decisively superior to the Gripen, owing to its combination of combat radius and persistence, sensor aperture, speed, altitude, weapon payload capacity (13-14 missiles), gun, ability to carry nuclear weapons and the Exocet missile, and the existence of a naval version.

      1. “…ability to carry nuclear weapons”
        Maybe they should sell it to North Korea or India then, no any other Nuclear power would be interested.

        “persistence”
        Persistence for two engine fighters of the same era will always be lower than for a single engine for the same era, simple because it takes more than double the time to service a twin engine. In any lengthy conflict the twin engine Eurocanards will be the first to become inoperable due to lack of maintenance.

      2. Wrong. Twin-engined fighters have consistently proven to be MORE persistent and able to spend MORE time on station than single-engined fighters. The Rafale has a lot more fuel onboard, and a lot longer combat radius, than the crappy Grippen. The same applies to the F-15 vs the F-16 Crappy Falcon: 1,967 vs just 550 kms.

      3. “The Rafale has a lot more fuel onboard”
        Yes, it consumes more so it needs more. (No, that I actually don’t know…but below you have the data from Brazil pitch)

        JAS-39E Gripen:
        30 min loiter time and the same combat radius as the Rafale version.
        This according the data supplied to the Brazilians where Rafale was ranked number 3 after Gripen and the F18.

        Persistence:
        Two engines contains more than the double amount of part compared to a singe engine fighter = at least double the risk of engine failure. (The Gripen has had it’s engine improved for increased reliability and has a lower failure rate than the original engine used on F/A-18 Hornet, this means the twin engine F/A-18 would need more service)

        A twin-engine:
        When one engine fails, time on station is up and time on maintenance commence.
        Two engines means more complicated structure = takes longer time to service.
        In order to prevent failure, frequent service is required, longer service time means less time on station.
        Less time on station means you need more planes to maintain combat readiness, more planes means more money.

        Twin engine fighters are best suited as air superiority fighters, Eurofighter and F-22 are primarily air superiority fighters.
        Having twin-engine planes staying over a target and waiting for coordinates is expensive, but of cause that is a matter of calculation based on amount of ordnance carried, type of ordnance carried, cost to maintain combat readiness and amount of redundancy required.
        Having one plane carrying 5 tons of ordnance isn’t necessary better than 2 planes carrying 2.5 ton of ordnance each, what if one of the engines fails when ground troops risk being overrun? Two planes = better redundancy.
        Generally I think what is produced in Sweden is crap (not as crappy as French cars though), but most of the stuff on Gripen isn’t produced in Sweden, a major part is produced in the UK and US.
        The Rafale is a “maintenance superiority fighter” to costly to be effective.

      4. Wrong. If you have a twin-engined fighter, you can safely continue the mission on your single engine or come back home. If you have but one engine and it fails, you must eject. If you don’t, you’re dead.

        Moreover, even if Rafale’s entire engine fails, it takes only one hour on the ground to replace it. But in most cases, you don’t have to replace the whole SNECMA engine – just the module that has failed – and that takes less than an hour.

        The Rafale is MORE persistent and far longer ranged than the Gripen, with an UNREFUELED combat radius of 1,852 kms (1,000 nms). The Gripen’s combat radius is less than 900 kms. Ditto for the Typhoon.

        The Gripen, with its pitiful weaponry, is utterly useless for supporting troops on the ground, as is the Junk Strike Fighter – in stark contrast with the Rafale, which wields 14 missiles and 30 mm gun (same caliber as on the A-10 Warthog).

        Yes, most parts of the Gripen are produced in the UK and the US – which makes the Gripen an even worse offering. For example, its engine is made in the US – so Gripen customers (e.g. Brazil, governed by a socialist president) – would likely have their precious Gripens grounded for a lack of spare parts in case of any spat with the US.

      5. “f you have a twin-engined fighter, you can safely continue the mission on your single engine or come back ”
        Not allowed in UK, nor in US.
        Single engine fails less frequently because they are made that way.

        The French can keep on dreaming about their better combat radius, the Brazilians wouldn’t accept that an contracted offer doesn’t live up to it’s promises. It would only be corrupt Frenchmen that would accept that kind of deal.

        The weaponry is the choice of the one that operates the plane, the Gripen has more options regarding incorperating weapons. This due to the dual way link that there’s still no plans to integrate on the Rafale. Currently, JAS-39 is the fighter with best air to air missiles, METEOR-dual link and IRIS-T. Both Rafale and JAS handles laser guided bombs.
        Also the Taurus is available to the Gripen.

        The velocity of the projectile fired from the Rafale is lower than the velocity of projectile fired by the Gripen, since the velocity is about 8% lower it becomes more difficult to hit a high speed target. The Rafale carries 125 rounds 30x150mm B, Gripen carries 120 rounds 27×145. So tell me, how is the Rafale better?

        Yes, and if the Brazilians would have any spat with the French the retarded frenchies would deliver the engines anyway…
        The crazy Swedes would cancel their deliveries for the F-22 raptor if US put trade restrictions on any parts of the JAS.🙂
        Hey, maybe that’s why the Rafael uses such a cheesy engine, they have nothing the US wants and might get hit by trade restrictions if they bought a good engine from the US.

      6. “The retarded Frenchies”… that’s the best comment you can offer. Bye-bye, Anders, you are not welcome here.

        Oh, and it’s RAFALE, not Rafael. It means “squall” in French. You can’t get even THAT right. Idiot.

  15. One note here: 1.852 km combat radius for Rafale includes drop tanks, on the internal fuel it should be ~1.100 – 1.200 km. As for persistence, it is dependant on total fuel capacity, fuel fraction and drag. Comparing Gripen E and Rafale, Rafale will have advantage in fuel capacity, fuel fraction will be similar while Gripen should have slight advantage in drag due to being a single-engined fighter. F-16A actually had better range on internal fuel than F-15A despite lower total fuel capacity, simply because F-16A had superior aerodynamics (less drag) and higher fuel fraction.

      1. No problem. And one more thing, Rafale has the best gun installation as far as air-to-air is concerned. More info can be found here:
        http://aimt.unob.cz/articles/07_02/07_02%20%283%29.pdf

        Basically, when using gun in dogfight you need to throw a lot of weight, and you need to do it quickly. GIAT-30 doesn’t have the highest rate of fire, but it has the highest rate of fire of revolver cannons, and very heavy round. As Gattling guns need far more time to acelerate to maximum rate of fire (typically 0,5 seconds compared to 0,05 seconds for revolver cannons), and firing opportunities during dogfight are short, it makes revolver cannons more suitable for ACM employment.

  16. Reply to Anders Anderson.

    Your unreasonable dislike and hatred of the French makes me wonder what they’ve done to you to deserve such vehemence;
    were you shagged silly by a horde of rampaging French men or what? The fact is the Rafale is the best fighter aircraft available today! And I’m sorry to say that, no I’m not! that your Gripen is a poor version of a fighter aircraft. and to boot you know nothing at all about fighter aircraft and French cars. French cars are as good as anything on the road today! You sad hate filled person!

    1. Regarding cars, Anders would be well-advised to note that NO Swedish car has ever won the European Car of the Year Award, while Renault is second among all carmakers of the world in this respect, with 6 titles, trailing only FIAT, which has 9 titles to boast. Peugeot is not far behind with 4 titles and is the current titleholder, thanks to its Peugeot 308.

  17. Hi Zbigniewmazurak, thanks for your interest in the Rafale, I just wanted to point some errors in your paper even if it’s a bit late, not to be a smart ass, but to make it more accurate, therefore better.

    “Additionally, both services want an aircraft capable of carrying the ASMP and ASMP-A stealthy cruise missile with a nuclear warhead – currently the TN-88, and later the TNA (Tete Nucleaire Aerienne, i.e. Aerial Nuclear Warhead), as a part of France’s nuclear deterrent – France’s only defense against the most catastrophic threats.”

    When you posted this message, the ASMP (Air Sol Moyenne Portée which stands for “air to ground middle range”) missile was already retired in favor of its younger yet bigger brother the ASMP-A (A stands for “Amélioré” which means “enhanced”) which entered service in 2011 and, being essentially a scaled up version of the ASMP, has a doubled range of 600+ km compared to its predecessor, while retaining the same mach3+ speed at high altitude. The missile is still capable of terrain following at low altitude with a range of more than 200km and mach 2.??

    The Nuclear warhead is the TN81, not TN88, the new TNA warhead has the same yield (300kt) and internal structure (2 stages uranium/plutonium) but is far more durable to the point it doesn’t need to be reforged for its entire life cycle due to way slower decay of radioactive metal alloy. A feature designed after France ceased to enrich U235 and Pu239 for military purposes since the closure of Marcoule heavy water reactor in 1997.

    Rafale in flight with ASMP-A, 6 MICA (4 EM and probably 2IR on wingtips) and 2 2000L tanks here:

    – – –

    “The MICA is intended for short and medium range combat, with a nominal range of 80 kms”

    more like about 60. We’re talking about a 112 kg missile with a 20kg warhead, way smaller than an amraam (yet capable of 50 g’s)

    – – –

    “This diversity of missiles and seekers will allow a Rafale pilot to saturate his opponent in combat with a salvo of 3 different missiles at once (and remember, the Rafale can carry 13-14 missiles in total). This means his opponent, forced to duck one of the missiles, would be detected by another missile’s seeker, and thus be shot down.”

    True statement about the hardpoints. Not about the number of missiles. Currently, the maximum number of Air to Air missiles on the Rafale is eight (8)

    The Meteor (not in service yet) was only carried by four so far, in the heaviest air to air configuration known to fly:

    The latest configuration obtained with the opening of external hardpoints involved: 2 IR MICA on wingtips. 2 EM MICAS on newly opened external wing hardpoints, 2 MICAS OR 2 METEORS on side points under fuselage, and 2 METEORS on external wet/heavy hardpoints, as seen there, but was only presented as a static demo on the ground, as it has never flown:

    The two hardpoints located in the center of fuselage won’t get air to air missiles any time soon, as they have been discarded for the MICA. They are currently used for fuel tanks, reconnaissance pod, buddy-buddy refueling pod, or AM39 Exocet/SCALP/APACHE Air to Surface/Ground missiles.

    – – –

    “Furthermore, the Rafale has the biggest gun on the market (ex aequo with Sukhoi aircraft): a hefty 30mm GIAT gun firing incendiary rounds. This makes the Rafale an excellent choice for both air to air and air to ground combat, as its 30mm rounds would provide excellent support for troops on the ground. 30mm is the caliber of the guns of most APCs and IFVs.”

    Yes and no.

    The Rafale uses a proprietary Gun designed by NEXTER (ex GIAT) along with proprietary ammunition design, the DEFA 30M791 B, which shoots a 30x150mm SAPHEI (Semi Armor Piercing High Explosive Incendiary) round at 1025m/second.

    http://www.nexter-group.fr/en/products/item/413-saphei-30-mm-x-150-ammunition-for-30-m-791-cannon

    Mainly designed for air to air, you can safely assume it’s the deadliest anti aircraft round today. Yet, it is only marginally designed for air to ground while it is still very capable of doing so.

    The barrel has a 0 degree elevation which means it fires in the exact flight direction of the plane, which is supposed to allow same air to air as well as air to ground fire conditions. Most fighter cannons are installed with a positive of negative angle to give them an advantage in air to air or air to ground shooting.

    The truth is that the cannon was a pain to qualify on Rafale and this 0 degree angle disposition was also chosen to limit vibrations during fire.

    The fastest achieved rate of fire was 2850 rounds per minute with burst of half a second to one second, which is 22 to 44 rounds. It was later downgraded to 2500 RPM to allow better lifecycle.

    The gun is also capable of 300/600/1500 RPM.

    http://www.nexter-group.fr/fr/component/k2/item/294-30mm-cannon-type-30-m-791

    – – –

    “The one thing that somewhat lets the Rafale down – other than its 55,000 ft ceiling – is its speed of Mach 1.8”

    This is an operational limitation only to prevent life cycle issues, the plane and structure demonstrated a mach 2.2 aerodynamic capability during flight tests.

    – – –

  18. This is what I compiled about Rafale:

    Dassault Rafale C

    Length: 15,30 m
    Wing span: 10,8 m
    Height: 5,34 m
    Wing area: 45,7 m (wing only)
    Canard area: 3,6 m2

    Turn rates:
    30-32 deg/s instananeous at sea level
    23,9-26,3 deg/s sustained at sea level
    28,1 deg/s sustained at 15.000 feet
    >30 deg/s maximum sustained
    290 deg/s roll (270 deg/s with centerline tank, 160* in heavy config)

    Climb rate:
    >250 m/s in air policing configuration
    305 m/s maximum

    min. takeoff distance: 400 m with AtA loadout

    Wing loading:
    275 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 6 MICA
    327 kg/m2 AtA takeoff

    Thrust-to-Weight ratio: (thrust: 9 952 kgf dry, 15 078 kgf afterburner)
    1,20 with 50% fuel, 6 MICA
    1,01 air-to-air takeoff weight

    Fuel fraction:
    0,33 (9 550 kg empty, 4 720 kg fuel) http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/3334/99916870gy6.jpg

    Weight:
    9 550 kg empty (9 850 kg operational empty)
    12 582 kg with 50% fuel, 6 MICA
    14 942 kg AtA takeoff (100% fuel, 6 MICA)
    24 500 kg maximum takeoff

    Maximum AoA: 100*
    Operational AoA: 32*
    Corner speed: 360 kt for 9 g sustained turn rate

    Speed:
    Mach 2,0-2,1 dash
    Mach 1,8 sustained
    Mach 1,4 supercruise w 6 AAM (M 1,65 possible with 90 kN engine) more
    Mach 0,93 cruise in long-range strike configuration

    Combat radius
    1 100 km on internal fuel (OR 925 km on internal fuel) – latter is more likely since ferry range on internal fuel is 2.100 km
    1 852 km on a penetration mission

    Snecma M88:
    Thrust: 10 971 lbf / 4 976 kgf dry, 16 620 lbf / 7 539 kgf reheat each

    RBE2 PESA:
    139 km vs 5m2 target

    RBE2 AESA:
    208 km vs 5m2 target
    278 km vs 5m2 target when coupled with SPECTRA

    FSO:
    IR detection range vs subsonic fighters: 80 km from front, 130 km from rear
    Laser ranging capability: 33 km
    TV camera range: 45 km

    SPECTRA:
    range for firing solution with 50 km)

    RCS: with SPECTRA and AtA load: 0,06 m2

    G load
    9 g operational (design limit load)
    11 g with override
    16,65 g structural (ultimate limid load – 185% of design limit load in Rafale’s case – C is downgraded M)

    Seat angle: 29 degrees

    http://www.ixarm.com/Technical-card,10820
    service ceilling 18.000 m

    ————————-
    BTW, MICA has range of 80 km, as can be seen here:
    http://archive.wikiwix.com/cache/?url=http://www.ixarm.com/Fiche-technique,11178&title=%C2%AB%C2%A0Mica%2C%20Fiche%20technique%C2%A0%C2%BB
    Reason for that is that many structural elements are outside the missile skin (fins are also structural elements, for example), allowing higher fuel fraction and thus greater range than could be expected from missile of that size.

    1. Thanks, I didn’t know about this.

      The Super Bug, in any case, is not an alternative to the Rafale, as it is bigger, heavier, less maneuverable, and has less range (don’t know why you excluded it from your study of post-1980 fighters, though). In addition, the Super Bug carries fewer weapons than the Rafale and is American-made – meaning that if you fall out of favor with the US, the White House can block the delivery of the aircraft or the spare parts any time.

      As someone said on your blog a few days ago, the Rafale is the only modern, advanced, fully-equipped and agile fighter whose deliveries are not subject to an American or Russian veto. If India, Canada, and the Persian Gulf states don’t want to rely exclusively on the US and Russia for their weapons, they need to buy from other suppliers.

      1. “The Super Bug, in any case, is not an alternative to the Rafale, as it is bigger, heavier, less maneuverable, and has less range”

        It is also slower and has inferior situational awareness.

        “don’t know why you excluded it from your study of post-1980 fighters, though”

        I can’t remember why, I might add it retroactively.

        “In addition, the Super Bug carries fewer weapons than the Rafale and is American-made – meaning that if you fall out of favor with the US, the White House can block the delivery of the aircraft or the spare parts any time.”

        That, and Rafale is the only Western fighter with IR BVRAAM.

        “As someone said on your blog a few days ago, the Rafale is the only modern, advanced, fully-equipped and agile fighter whose deliveries are not subject to an American or Russian veto.”

        Indeed. I hoped that Gripen NG will use EJ200 or M88-3 for precisely this reason, but Sweden opted for F414 variant. probably to reduce development costs.

      2. All of that is true. I have a question, though. In one of your blogposts, related to IADS, you write about how fighters such as the Rafale could possibly defeat advanced IADS such as the S-300, S-400, and S-500. Among the methods you suggest are a) flying below radar (the oldest method in the world); b) using baits or decoys such as another aircraft to force the enemy to light up their radar, then launching an anti-radiation missile at it; c) outrunning it.

        Here’s what one of my friends has told me about such tactics:

        “As an adjunct study, we looked at using the GBU-53B to defeat the ‘5 minute shoot & scoot’ SAMS – the GBU-53B can search for and engage moving targets like the TELs etc:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-53/B

        You assume that the front quarter LO is sufficient to avoid detection, but once the bomb is released, you have two options: 1) turn and run or 2) do a ‘dist dive’ and get below the radar horizon.

        The F-22 operates at 60,000+ feet and gives and increased range. It also has a super-cruise of Mach 1.72 and a top speed of about Mach 2. It can release the 53B and outrun the missiles now locked onto the less lO rear end.

        The F-35 struggles at 40,000 feet and has to get a lot closer for launch. It cannot outrun the missiles and has to do a dirt dive. If can JUST make it, but the launch window is only a couple of miles across.

        Forget Gen 4 aircraft – they are taken out head-on. The might have a change with geolocation and a pop-up to loft CBU-53Bs, but terrain masking is difficult as the missileers use elevated sites and masts.

        Then there is the risk of ambush by SAMs like the Pantsir S.

        These are only temporary tactics, as from the S-400 onwards, each SAM regiment includes a VHF AESA like the NEBO M and SUV. These will detect incoming F-22s and F-35s and coupled with a missile with a active seeker like the 40N6 or an iR seeker (yet to be disclosed) the VHF radar will find the target, the TELS will guide the missile to a ‘kill box’ and the missile will do its own terminal homing. They have large warheads and directional blast, so they don’t need to turn to hit to kill.

        Jamming? Forget it. All the missiles have Home-on-Jam and conventional jammers cannot put out the power necessary to defeat the 250Km 9M82. Later russian SAMs als have very effective LPI systems.”

      3. “You assume that the front quarter LO is sufficient to avoid detection”

        Not necessarily detection, just engagement. Besides, chances are that if SAM does a sweep and detects nothing it won’t stay turned on long enough for engagement, and it will – if the operator is competent – simply change position.

        “but once the bomb is released, you have two options: 1) turn and run or 2) do a ‘dist dive’ and get below the radar horizon.”

        These are the best options, but sometimes – depending on how engagement went – one has to stay and evade the missile(s) SAM battery fired.

        “The F-22 operates at 60,000+ feet and gives and increased range. It also has a super-cruise of Mach 1.72 and a top speed of about Mach 2. It can release the 53B and outrun the missiles now locked onto the less lO rear end.
        The F-35 struggles at 40,000 feet and has to get a lot closer for launch. It cannot outrun the missiles and has to do a dirt dive. If can JUST make it, but the launch window is only a couple of miles across.”
        “from the S-400 onwards, each SAM regiment includes a VHF AESA like the NEBO M and SUV. These will detect incoming F-22s and F-35s and coupled with a missile with a active seeker like the 40N6 or an iR seeker (yet to be disclosed) the VHF radar will find the target, the TELS will guide the missile to a ‘kill box’ and the missile will do its own terminal homing. They have large warheads and directional blast, so they don’t need to turn to hit to kill.”

        Agreed. As I have said before, I consider F-22s supercruise and high altitude flight capabilities to be more important than radar stealth. Rafale or Typhoon can carry 4 missiles when semi-clean, so they qualify as well. Other fighters, not so much.

        “Forget Gen 4 aircraft – they are taken out head-on. The might have a change with geolocation and a pop-up to loft CBU-53Bs, but terrain masking is difficult as the missileers use elevated sites and masts.”

        Depends. Fighters like Rafale and Typhoon have good countermeasure suite and sufficient speed and agility to evade SAMs. Super Hornet, OTOH, may have good countermeasure suite but cannot supercruise and has shitty agility. F-16 is better than SH, but still significantly inferior to Eurocanards.

        “Jamming? Forget it. All the missiles have Home-on-Jam and conventional jammers cannot put out the power necessary to defeat the 250Km 9M82.”

        Radar decoys and jammer decoys (such as BriteCloud) are always a possibility, though latter are only effective against SAMs using missiles with RF seeker (they most likely cannot defeat ground radar itself). But if missiles are using IR seeker, then F-22 and F-35 are worse off than Rafale or Gripen when it comes to possibility of avoiding being locked on.

      4. “But if missiles are using IR seeker, then F-22 and F-35 are worse off than Rafale or Gripen when it comes to possibility of avoiding being locked on.”

        Because the F-22 and the F-35 are hotter. How good is the Rafale’s and the Typhoon’s countermeasures suite?

      5. “How good is the Rafale’s and the Typhoon’s countermeasures suite?”

        As far as IR countermeasures go, I think it’s quite standard – multispectral flares and that’s it. In RF spectrum, Spectra is one of better defense suites – Rafale can basically do Growler’s job without any external pods since SPECTRA is interferometric system with <1* accuracy. It has directional AESA jammers, meaning that it can jam just missile's seeker, or radar of aircraft (or SAM) currently targeting it, without giving away its presence to other sensors in the area, and with lesser energy expenditure than would otherwise be necessary. It may have active cancellation as well.

        Typhoon's DASS is somewhat inferior, particularly since RWR antennas are mounted at wing tips (which reduces precision due to aeroelastic deformations of the wing making precise measurement impossible) but it does have advantage of towed decoy. Its RF MAWS is better in bad weather, but SPECTRA's IR MAWS offers longer detection range in clear weather, immunity to ECM and to ground clutter.

      6. Thank you for a litany of meaningless generalizations. As always there are a handful of fanboy types who refuse to accept anything but their own personal version of reality…
        ”the Super Bug carries fewer weapons than the Rafale ” are you sure ?? The SH is the most heavily armed fighting platform on the planet, the Rafale don’t even come close..The Super Hornet is vastly superior to Rafale because of the radar, APG-79, which is leaps and bounds more capable than RAFALE’s tiny little radar aperture that won’t permit anything more than 850 T/R modules so whatever you do, you are not going anywhere. the missiles, in a purely air to air load out you could carry as many as 12 120Ds and 2 AIM-9X’s plus you still have the center line and last but not least two generations of air warfare experience that showed what worked and what didn’t.

        ”American-made – meaning that if you fall out of favor with the US, the White House can block the delivery of the aircraft or the spare parts any time.”

        This is the only correct statement you made so far ..But again thats politics …The US is a superpower, France is not ! France buys REAPER drones from the US because she doesn’t have the technology to develop its own !! at least until mid 2020’s..

      7. “As always there are a handful of fanboy types who refuse to accept anything but their own personal version of reality…”

        Look in the mirror.

        “”the Super Bug carries fewer weapons than the Rafale ” are you sure ?? The SH is the most heavily armed fighting platform on the planet, the Rafale don’t even come close..”

        Dead wrong. The Rafale’s B and M variants have 13 hardpoints (ditto the Eurofighter Typhoon), the C variant has 14. The Super Bug only has eleven.

        “The Super Hornet is vastly superior to Rafale because of the radar, APG-79, which is leaps and bounds more capable than RAFALE’s tiny little radar aperture.”

        Keep wishing. The Rafale is a far better aircraft, not least because of its superior RBE-2 AESA radar which is a generation newer than the Super Bug’s obsolete and underpowered APG-79. But this is not surprising given that the Super Bug is essentially an early 1990s “old soup in a new bottle” redo of the 1970s Hornet.

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  20. I Think Rafale Is Good At High And Clear Altitude An F22 Or Typhoon Is Better In Upredictable Situtions And This Is The Vital Stroke For Battle

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