France's Dassault Rafale Fighter Can Kill the F-22 Raptor

November 21, 2023 Topic: military Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Dassault RafaleRafaleF-22F-22 Raptor

France's Dassault Rafale Fighter Can Kill the F-22 Raptor

The Dassault Rafale can trace its origins back to the Avion de Combat Experimentale (ACX) program in the early 1980s before France's withdrawal from the multinational European Fighter Aircraft (EFA) project in 1985.

Meet the Dassault Rafale: The People's Liberation Army Air Force's August 1st Aerobatics Team took part in an aerial demonstration earlier this month at the Dubai Air Show as part of Beijing's efforts to attract foreign buyers of its J-10C jet fighter. However, China wasn't alone in trying to seek interested parties.

France's Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace also demonstrated its Dassault Rafale, the twin engine fighter that was first developed for the French Air Force and Navy – but has also been adopted by Egypt, Qatar, India, Croatia and Greece. The fighter has seen combat in the skies over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria.

At the Dubai Air Show, Paris sought to attract new customers in the Middle East and Asia – notably Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, while Qatar has expressed interest in acquiring an additional 24 Rafale from Dassault, which would increase its fleet to 60.

The Rafale has been seen as the next-best aircraft for Middle Eastern nations that have sought to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, as Israel maintains its strict opposition. Given the current political climate, with many Middle Eastern nations publicly condemning Israel for its war on Gaza, it is unlikely that the Israeli government will relax its stance on which of its neighbors could acquire the F-35.

That could be music to the ears of those in France who would like to continue finding foreign buyers for the Rafale.

Dassault Rafale, Explained

The Dassault Rafale can trace its origins back to the Avion de Combat Experimentale (ACX) program in the early 1980s before France's withdrawal from the multinational European Fighter Aircraft (EFA) project in 1985. It has been suggested that one reason why Paris opted to pull out of the EFA program was its requirement for smaller and lighter combat aircraft that could operate from aircraft carriers.

The ACX then took the form of a technology demonstrator and was first flown in July 1986, and subsequently re-designated Rafale A. It established the primary design features for the production of the Rafale, including the basic aerodynamic configuration, fly-by-wire control system and structure that made extensive use of composites.

The Rafale – which means literally "gust of wind," or "burst of fire" in a more military sense – was conceived for use by the French Air Force and Navy as an "omnirole" fighter, meaning that it would replace seven types of combat aircraft then in operation. It was developed to carry out a wide range of missions including air-defense/air-superiority, anti-access/area denial, reconnaissance, close air support, dynamic targeting, air-to-ground precision strike/interdiction, anti-ship attacks, nuclear deterrence, and even buddy-buddy refueling.

The various requirements needed for the multi-mission roles were taken into account during the aircraft's early development, which led engineers to create an aircraft that was able to go above the needs for each type of mission, and serve as a true "force multiplier."

Though it was developed at the tail end of the Cold War, the Rafale is likely to remain the French military's prime combat aircraft until 2050 and beyond.

Updated and Enhanced

The Rafale first entered service in 2001, and has been progressively equipped to more advanced standards. In its initial form, the Rafale A demonstrator was powered by a pair of 68.6kN (15,422 pounds) thrust General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofans.

Experiences with the Rafale A led to the Rafale C, initially known as the Avion de Combat Tactique (ACT), which first flew in May 1991. It was powered by two 75kN (16861pound) SNECMA M88-2 afterburning turbofans.

The fourth-generation combat aircraft utilizes a quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire system that provides for longitudinal stability and superior handling performance across three digital channels and one separately designed analog channel. The close-coupled/delta wing configuration also ensures that the Rafale remains agile even at high angles of attack.

The French Air Force and French Navy ordered 180 – with 132 being slated for the air force and 48 for the Navy. It entered service with the French Navy in 2004, while ten of the aircraft are even operation on its flagship nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, while the Rafale formally became operation al with the French Air Force in 2006.

It Can Claim to Have "Killed" an F-22 (in a War Game)

During a joint exercise in the United Arabs Emirates in November 2009, a U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was "shot down" by a Rafale in a mock dogfight.

The F-22 had actually scored well in its simulated sorties, downing six Rafales and drawing in five more. However, one French pilot pushed his aircraft to the absolute limit – reaching a reported 9Gs – and was able to lock on to a Raptor.

The American pilots had insisted their aircraft had been undefeated, but the French Ministry of Defense released video footage that showed otherwise. The Rafale was certainly in a position to launch an infrared-guided Mica missile at the Raptor. The U.S. Air Force likely wasn't trying to cover up anything, but the exact situation involving the exchange likely remained one of debate. As an actual missile wasn't launched, perhaps it was felt the F-22 still could have had an advantage.

Yet, for the French Air Force it showed that its best aircraft was able to win the day – and now it wants to see if buyers in the Middle East will "settle" for the Rafale if they can't get the F-35.

Author Experience and Expertise

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

All Images are Creative Commons.