In October 2012, the Rafale omnirole fighter reached two major milestones: the first delivery of a production aircraft equipped with the first production RBE2 AESA radar, and the initial successful testing of the new-generation, very long-range, Meteor air-to-air missile.
Pushing forward on new air-to-air capabilities, the Rafale B301, operating from Cazaux DGA Flight Test Center in south-western France, successfully completed, on October 4 then on October 10, two successful tests of the beyond visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) Meteor.
On December 22, 2010, the French defense procurement agency (DGA: Direction Générale de l’Armement) ordered 200 Meteor missiles. A week after, the contract for integration of the Meteor missile to the Rafale system was awarded to the industry.
This advanced, ramjet-powered, missile, made by MBDA, is intended for air defense missions. It will intercept targets at very long range, and it will be a perfect complement to the MICA missile, which is currently used at shorter ranges for air-to-air interception, dogfight and self-defense.
On October 2, 2012, the first production Rafale F3 (the single-seater C137), equipped with the first production Thales RBE2 Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, was delivered to the French DGA, paving the way for the introduction into operational service of the first European combat aircraft fully exploiting the cutting edge AESA radar technology.
Extended range capabilities offered to the Rafale by the RBE2 AESA radar (among a number of other key operational benefits) allow the full use of the latest generation of long-range air-to-air missiles such as the Meteor.
The Rafale is already an extremely effective new-generation, combat proven (Afghanistan, Libya), omnirole tactical fighter, but development is continuing apace to exploit more and more of the aircraft’s tremendous capabilities, and to seamlessly add new ones. As a result, the Rafale looks set to become even better in the near future.