French Air Force Receives First AESA-Equipped Rafale

 - October 5, 2012, 12:00 PM
The first Rafale combat aircraft equipped with an AESA radar has been delivered (Photos: Dassault Aviation/A. Fevrier and Thales/Eric Raz)

Dassault and Thales announced delivery of the first production Rafale to carry the Thales RBE2 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The companies noted that the aircraft, production number C137 for the French Air Force, is the first AESA-equipped European combat aircraft to enter service. The development was completed on time and budget, they added. Dassault has now delivered 111 Rafales to the French Air Force and Navy; C137 is the seventh of eleven aircraft due to be handed over this year.

The RBE2 AESA confers several operational benefits, according to Dassault and Thales. These include extended-range detection of low-observable targets; greater waveform agility for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging; improved resistance to jamming; greater reliability; and lower support costs.

The RBE2 AESA was part of the successful Team Rafale offer to the Indian Air Force. Negotiations toward a contract for 126 aircraft continue, but may not be concluded until next year, according to reliable reports from Delhi. The offset negotiations have been complicated by changes in Indian government policy. IAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne told AIN recently that he expects the French fighter to enter service in 2016. Dassault declined to comment to AIN on the status of the talks.

Losing finalist Eurofighter continues unofficially to express its readiness to submit a revised offer for the Typhoon, should India require. Eurofighter officials say that the price of the four-nation fighter, coupled with its lack of an AESA radar, were the factors driving the Indian choice. At Dassault’s half-year financial results presentation last July, chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne claimed that the Indian choice was made on technical, operational and financial grounds. It “confirmed the Rafale’s superiority as soon as the influence of the United States is not the criterion,” he added.