The French Air and Space Army has completed its first operational flight with a Rafale jet equipped with METEOR war-grade missiles as part of the ramp-up of the Rafale F3-R.
From now on, the Air and Space Army sees its Air / Air missile capacity reinforced in the context of air defense, conventional or nuclear assault missions, it said.
A true “game changer”, the METEOR brings considerable capacity gain to the Rafale, reinforcing our ability to “enter first” in an unprecedented way, the French Air and Space Army said.
'Air missile capacity reinforced'
This flight made it possible to validate the process of routing ammunition depots to the armament zone, then to validate the know-how during a first deployment of the missile by the gunsmiths, and to confirm the operational readiness of the weapons, the company said.
"From now on, the Air and Space Army sees its Air/Air missile capacity reinforced in the context of air defense, conventional or nuclear assault missions," it asserted.
Rafale jets were India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia. The jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of their weapons package.
Meteor is a next generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.
With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, the Rafale combat aircraft can reach maximum speeds of 750 knots.
It can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.
The mission system of the Rafale has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.
Rafale's METEOR, HAMMER & BVR
It has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air 'Beyond Visual Range' (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER -- Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range -- modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and "specifics armaments" selected by some clients.
The Rafale is also fitted with 14 hardpoints, out of which five are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance.
The jet's total external load capacity is more than nine tones.
"Hence, Rafale can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads," according to Dassault. As per the manufacturers, the pilot interface is very easy to use and relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment which has capabilities for short-term, medium and long-term actions.
The design of the cockpit gives a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear.
The first batch of the five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
The formal induction ceremony of the fleet had taken place nearly six weeks later. A second batch of three Rafale jets arrived in India on November 3 while a third batch of another three jets joined the IAF on January 27.
The first squadron of the Rafale jets was stationed at the Ambala air base while the second one will be based at the Hasimara base in West Bengal. The jets undertook regular sorties along the eastern Ladakh during the India-China standoff earlier in the year.
France pushes for Future Combat Air System
In fact, France and Germany aim to take the next step in the development of Europe's next-generation combat jet in the coming weeks by confirming contracts to build a test version.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), being built by German, French and Spanish firms, is a key part of Macron's push for military sovereignty on the Continent and his aim to lessen its reliance on the NATO alliance.
So far governments have only approved funding for prototype and design contracts, a small fraction of the multibillion-euro budget for the 20-year project.
Signing contracts for the next studies would mean $1.2 billion commitment to building the demonstrator plane, expected to cost 6 billion euros.
Greece to buy Rafale jets
Airbus and France's Dassault Aviation are spearheading the plane's development, alongside Safran and Thales of France, German engine maker MTU, and the European missile joint venture MBDA.
The new stealth delta-wing jets, which will replace the current generation of Rafale and Eurofighter jets, are set to be operational in 2040. France continues to export the Rafale. Last month it signed a $3 billion warplane deal with Greece as part of a burgeoning arms programme to counter Turkish challenges in the eastern Mediterranean.
The deal will see Greece buying 18 Rafale jets, 12 of them used, made by French firm Dassault to bolster its forces during their regular mid-air skirmishes with Turkish pilots over disputed Aegean airspace.
Greece eyes ambitious defence spearheaded by Rafale jets
A group of Greek Air Force pilots and technicians are to travel to France for training. The programme, Greece's most ambitious in decades, includes four multi-purpose frigates, four navy helicopters, anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes, Air Force missiles and 15,000 additional troops by 2025.
Turkey in August sent an exploration ship and a small navy flotilla to conduct seismic research in waters which Greece considers its own under postwar treaties.
Rafale deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali
The Rafale is France's most state-of-the-art fighter jet, capable of speeds of more than 2,000 kilometres an hour (1,400 miles per hour), which has been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali.
China had placed its premier J-20 jets close to the Line of Actual Control(LAC) as the Indian Air Force ramps up its Rafale fighters.
In fact, Indian Air Chief RKS Bhadauria had said recently that "They had brought their J-20 fighter aircraft to areas close to eastern Ladakh," adding,"The moment Indian Rafales were brought in, their J-20 was there."