Over the last decades, air forces have always been the first military component engaged in all crises or conflicts, from the Falklands to the Gulf, from Bosnia to Kosovo, from Afghanistan to Libya, and more recently Mali, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria.
Military aviation is undoubtedly the most strategic weapon today, both in terms of combat effectiveness and of critical technologies implemented.
In modern warfare, air dominance from day one is a must, so that air-to-ground and air-to-sea operations can be conducted safely and efficiently.
In the course of asymmetrical and counter-insurgency conflicts, the air arm also remains at the forefront of the military effort, its flexibility and firing power helping ensure that allied forces prevail.
The September 11 events have shown that, in peacetime, it is essential to secure the national airspace with easily deployable control and air defence assets.
The decisive place of the air component in modern warfare is demonstrated by the defence strategies decided by those nations who want to keep a leading role on the world stage.
French Air Force Rafale in operations (Opération Harmattan) - Fitted with 6 AASM and MICA missiles. © A. Jeuland French Air Force
The Rafale, with its "Omnirole" capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments.
It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft.
The Rafale participates in permanent "Quick Reaction Alert" (QRA) / air-defence / air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions, deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties and nuclear deterrence duties.
The single-seat Rafale C, the two-seat Rafale B and the Navy single-seat Rafale M feature maximum airframe and equipment commonality, and very similar mission capabilities.
Rafale Solo Display © Dassault Aviation - V. Almansa
Lessons learned from the latest conflicts where air power was used, can be summarized into four overarching expectations about weapon systems by political decision makers:
Versatility, that is the capability, with the same system, to perform different missions, interoperability, or the ability to fight in coalition with the allies, using common procedures and standards agreements and collaborating and communicating in real-time with other systems. Flexibility, which can be illustrated by the ability to conduct several different missions in the course of the same sortie ("Omnirole" capability).
With this capability, it is possible to switch instantly on the demand of a political decision maker, from a coercion mission ("strike force") to a preventive mission (a dissuasive low-altitude, high-speed "show of force"), or even to cancel a mission until the last second (reversibility).
Survivability, that is the capability to survive in a dense threat environment thanks to stealthiness and/or to advanced electronic warfare systems.
Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. Rafale M. © Defence/French Navy
The "Omnirole" Rafale combines all these advantages: it is relevant against both traditional and asymmetrical threats, it addresses the emerging needs of the armed forces in a changing geopolitical context and it remains at the forefront of technical innovation.
Thanks to its versatility, its adaptability and its ability to meet all air mission requirements, the Rafale is the "poster child" transformational fighter which provides a way forward to air forces confronted to the requirement of doing "more" with "less", in an ever-changing strategic and economic environment.
Of a moderate size, yet extremely powerful, superbly agile and very discrete, the latest type of combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation not only integrates the largest and most modern range of sensors, it also multiplies their efficiency with a technological breakthrough, the "multi-sensor data fusion".
Rafale in flight.
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