The Dassault Rafale
The Rafale is a twin-engine multirole fighter plane designed and produced by the French aircraft manufacturer, Dassault Aviation. The “Omnirole” capabilities of the Rafale makes this fourth-generation fighter craft ideal both for air forces and navies of various countries.
There are three main versions of the Rafale; the Rafale C single-seat land-based version, the Rafale B twin-seat land-based version, and the Rafale M single-seat carrier-based version. The Rafale C standard versions comes fitted with a twin SNECMA M88-2 augmented turbofan engines and is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 1,190 miles an hour. It can carry an armament of up to 20,900 lbs. on 14 external hardpoints. These can be a mix of air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, laser guided missiles, rocket pods, and air launched cruise missiles. Its superior capacity makes Rafale ideal for air warfare, aerial reconnaissance, and anti-ship strikes.
The fighter capabilities of the Rafale are often compared to other top notch fourth generation fighter planes such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon (Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics), the JAS 39 Gripen (SAAB), and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Rafale Deployment History
The first two Rafales to be inducted by the French Navy’s aviation wing in 2000 were Rafale M fighters. By 2004, the French Navy has added more Rafale M fighters and declared them operational. They were first deployed in 2002 when the French Navy sent out seven Rafale M fighters on its missions in Afghanistan. In 2016, they were again deployed against the Islamic State. The Rafale M fighters are capable of being carried by and deployed from a number of different aircraft carriers and these capabilities have been demonstrated in international naval exercises.
The Rafale was inducted by the French Air Force by 2007. Since then they have been deployed in many operations including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Libya, West Africa, and against the Islamic State. According to Dassault the French Air Force has 63 Rafale B and 69 Rafale C fighters while the Navy has 48 Rafale M fighters.
Countries that have the Rafale
Apart from the French Air Force and Navy, three other countries have signed contracts with Dassault for the procurement of Rafale fighters. Egypt and Qatar both seek 24 Rafales while India has signed a deal for 36 Rafales. By 2017, about 14 of these were delivered to Egypt.
India’s Rafale Deal Controversy
The Rafale fighter craft procurement deal between the Indian government and the French aviation company Dassault has stirred up quite a political controversy in India. In January 2012, the Indian (UPA) government had announced that Dassault Rafale had won the MMCRA competition and had agreed to procure 126 fighters. By January 2014, however, the deal had not been inked as the total cost of procurement had escalated to USD 30 billion. In April – May 2014, following the general elections in India, the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP came to power. In 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country would be procuring 36 Rafale fighters (in fly away condition) and fresh negotiations ensued. The final price negotiated was quoted at 7.87 Euros and in 2016 the deal was inked and the delivery of the planes was scheduled to start in September 2019. The main opposition party, the Indian National Congress has since then alleged major corruption and lack of transparency in the deal. There are also allegations of favoritism towards Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defense Limited which has entered a transfer of technology deal with Dassault instead of the public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. While these allegations have not derailed the deal, this issue is a major topic of controversy ahead of the 2019 general elections in India.