Rafale - Payloads
The mission system of the RAFALE has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments. The RAFALE has been cleared to operate the following weapons:
- The MICA air-to-air “Beyond Visual Range” (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, in their IR (heat-seeking) and EM (active radar homing) versions. The MICA can be used within visual range (WVR) and beyond visual range (BVR). The wing-tip Magic were replaced by IR-guided Mica on the production aircraft.
- The AASM modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon series, fitted with INS/GPS or INS/GPS/IIR (imaging infra-red) guidance kits, or with the upcoming INS/GPS/laser guidance kit.
- The SCALP (a.k.a. "Storm Shadow") long-range stand-off missile. The SCALP Missile is an air launched cruise-launched missile, fired from Rafale as well as other combat aircraft.
- The AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missile
- Laser-guided bombs
- Unguided bombs
- The 2500 rds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon, available on both single and dual seaters
- The METEOR long-range air-to-air missile
- Customer-selected weapons
The RAFALE's stores management system is Mil-Std-1760 compliant, which provides for easy integration of customer-selected weapons. With its 10-tonne empty weight, the RAFALE is fitted with 14 hard points (13 on the RAFALE M). Five of them are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. Total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes (20,000 lbs.).
Combat radius is quoted at 800 nm unrefuelled, with up to 4 ground targets assigned and a solid self-escort capability resting on the BVR Mica. Thanks to its carrying capability, stealth performance and multisensor fusion, Rafale brings a high level of tasking flexibility and of lethality. The GBU-12 is a 500 lb Paveway 2 laser-guided bomb which is fast becoming one of the most widely used weapons in precision strike operations, because of its pinpoint accuracy, low cost and widespread availability. Compared to heavier conventional bombs, it has the advantage of reduced collateral damage while retaining the same lethality against point targets due to its precision guidance.
This development effort came in the wake of the French Air Force engagements in joint operations over Bosnia and Kosovo stressing the political implications of precision strike capability. A fast track GBU-12 upgrade had to be fielded on Air Force Mirage F1CTs and Navy Super Etendards and the Rafale development agenda was also reshuffled according to lessons learned in combat by including the PGM capability into the definition of the first air force batch.
With its outstanding load-carrying capability and its advanced mission system, the RAFALE can carry out both ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. It is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase: a clear demonstration of the true “OMNIROLE” capability and oustanding survivability of the RAFALE.
Since 2006, the French Air Force and Navy RAFALE fighters engaged in countless combat missions in Afghanistan where they have demonstrated a very high proficiency and a tangible military value. The AASM precision-guided modular air-to-surface armament, laser-guided bombs, and the 30 mm cannon have been successfully employed on many occasions, scoring direct hits with remarkable precision. More recently, the French Air Force and Navy RAFALE fighters were engaged in the coalition operations over Libya.
“Buddy” refuelling missions can be carried out in portions of the airspace out of reach of dedicated and vulnerable tanker aircraft. The range of missions which can be performed by the Rafale is constantly being expanded, and the integration and trials of the Intertechnique buddy-buddy refuelling pod have now been completed. This pod is due to be used by the French Navy from its aircraft-carrier to provide an organic in-flight refuelling capability to the carrier battle group. Rafale M1, the first production naval Rafale, successfully refuelled other Rafale and Super Etendard fighters, clearly demonstrating the inherent flexibility of the design. The pod itself was initially been cleared up to Mach 0.9 / 580 knots IAS, and in-flight refuellings had been conducted with transfer rates of 530 litres/minute - at 280-350 knots at altitudes up to 20,000 feet, but this could be expanded to 30,000 feet without any problem. Even for countries with no naval air arms, a Rafale equipped with this refuelling pod could increase the combat capabilities of a strike package as it boasts a significant self-escort capability with its Mica air-to-air missiles, allowing a raid to penetrate deep into hostile territory while still having an embedded tanker force.
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