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The Dassault Rafale was developed by France for use by both the French Air Force and Navy after the nation withdrew from the multinational Future European Fighter Aircraft which resulted in the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Rafale A demonstration aircraft first flew in 1986 and many of the internal systems including the AESA radar, IRST sensor and SPECTRA electronic warfare suite have been locally developed. Three basic versions of the Rafale are in production, the Rafale M carrier-based fighter and two land-based variants, the Rafale C single seater and B two-seater. The type has seen significant export success and is either in service or on order with Croatia, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Qatar, and the UAE.
Deliveries to the French Air and Space Force began in 2004, with the first combat units declaring operational capability in 2006. The French Air Force operates both the B and C units and originally planned to only use the two-seat B for training purposes. However, the B is now also used for air to ground strike missions and has recently taken over the nuclear strike role from the Mirage 2000N. The Rafale has seen extensive combat since first dropping bombs over Afghanistan in 2007 and were the first combat aircraft to patrol Libyan air space in 2011. Dassault have recently delivered the latest upgrade for the Rafale, known as the F4 standard to the Air Force for testing which includes a helmet mounted display and a modern datalink.
The Rafale is an extremely agile fighter and the French Air and Space Force solo display is a very popular flying demonstration which never ceases to captivate airshow visitors. The solo display will be appearing at RIAT 2023 and last visited RAF Fairford in 2018.
Photo Credit: Rich Cooper