Rafale: defence of the realm

Since the dawn of military aviation more than a century ago, combat aircraft have been judged on the basis of their speed, agility and firepower. Today, it’s not just muscle that matters, but also flexibility and intelligence.

Changing operational requirements mean that combat planes must be capable of performing a wide range of different tasks, from reconnaissance to air defence and precision strikes. They must also be capable of conducting several different missions in the same sortie.

The Rafale “omnirole” fighter is designed to meet these needs. Advanced avionics hold the key: from nose to tail, the aircraft is equipped with an array of sophisticated  electronics systems and equipment. Among other things, these allow the pilot to gather and share high-resolution imagery, target guided weapons with pinpoint accuracy and defend the aircraft from hostile actions. Thales also provides the electronics for some of the missiles equipped by the Rafale.

In tandem with this, the Rafale supports pilots with an unprecedented level of “data fusion” – combining information from all the different systems and sensors to build a comprehensive tactical picture to assist in decision making. The Rafale’s on-board electronics systems, equipment and sensors are supplied by Thales and account for about 25 per cent of the plane’s value.
Thales Group - Rafale : on board the rafale
Spectra electronic warfare suite
Spectra is the first line of defence for the Rafale aircraft, identifying, locating and jamming electromagnetic, infrared and laser threats. Multi-spectral sensors and smart data fusion offer high-sensitivity detection. Spectra’s multiple threat capability, including missile approach warning and decoy dispenser, helps to ensure success in hostile environments.

Thales’ Airborne REconnaissance Observation System – AREOS – provides rapid day/night imagery intelligence (IMINT) for reconnaissance and identification in any weather conditions. AREOS gathers high-definition imagery at long range and across a wide area, with information transmitted from air to ground via a high-capacity data link.

Thales’ third-generation laser designation pod, DAMOCLES, provides weapons guidance and a full suite of sensors for navigation and air-to-air target identification. It provides day/night recognition of targets at medium range, as well as long-distance reconnaissance capability. The pod’s infrared sensor is designed to perform effectively in both warm and humid conditions. TALIOS – an updated version of DAMOCLES – is an optronic multifunction pod that employs the latest generation of high-resolution sensors and high precision line-of-sight stabilisation, allowing for deep strikes with long-range missiles and bombs to air-to-air target identification and close air support. It includes Non-Traditional Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) capabilities and the Permanent Vision system provides wide-angle vision and critical contextual information.

Communication Navigation Identification suite
Secure state-of-the-art communication, navigation and identification capabilities covering every operational need, including ECCM (used to combat electronic countermeasures), IFF (identification friend or foe) and tactical data links.

Advanced Man Machine Interface (MMI)
Thales’ powerful visualisation tools provide instant situational awareness for the pilot and support well-informed tactical decisions. The MMI solution includes a combined head-up/head level display, lateral displays and a helmet-mounted sight display.

The Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) RBE2 antenna is a multifunction radar system that provides coverage over long ranges. AESA RBE2 is automatic and highly versatile, sorting and ranking tracked targets, and allowing the pilot to track multiple targets while scanning. It is the first active operational European radar antenna, and provides air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities.

Front Sector Optronics (FSO)
Thales’FSO includes extensive ITcapability with laser electro-optics for passive long-range target detection for air, sea and ground targets, designation and identification, all fully integrated into the aircraft. It allows the pilot to spot enemy aircraft without being detected and is immune to radar jamming because it operates in optical wavelengths.

Smarter planes

Thales is to lead the upgrade of the radar, electronic warfare, and identification and support systems used in French fighter planes under the terms of a contract to develop a new performance standard for the Rafale combat aircraft.

The F3 R standard, launched earlier this year, will play a vital part in ensuring aircraft are continuously improved to keep pace with changing operational requirements. The upgrade will include
deployment of Thales’ TALIOS next generation laser designation pod. This will provide enhanced imaging  and engagement capabilities under day and night conditions. Both the Rafale and the Mirage 2000D can be equipped with the TALIOS pod. The programme will also see the integration of the European Meteor long-range air-to-air missile produced by MBDA. The equipment and solutions developed by Thales include RBE2 active and passive antennae, Spectra, IFF and maintenance support.
Thales Group - Rafale flying
Bangalore, Karnataka, India – February 9, 2013: French Rafale performing at Aero India 2013 (IAF's Yelahanka Air Force base). French Rafale is a highlight of Aero India 2013 as it has won Indian Air Force 126 multirole aircraft deal.
Thales Group - Rafale / cockpit

Export successes

The Rafale has enjoyed a string of major international successes in recent months, beginning with Egypt signing up to buy 24 Rafale omnirole combat aircraft in February 2015.
And after many months of discussion, India has also signed a Letter of Intent to purchase 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale for the Indian Air Force. The latest contract comes from the Qatar Emiri Air Force, which has announced it will acquire the Rafale omnirole combat aircraft. A total of 24 aircraft will be delivered under a contract between Qatar and Dassault Aviation. Thales is a member of the Rafale team with Dassault Aviation and Snecma (Safran).

The official signing ceremony was held in the Qatari capital Doha in the presence of the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO, Eric Trappier and Thales Chairman and CEO, Patrice Caine.