F-22 faces unlikely challenger in dogfights, not of Russian origin

When it comes to fourth-generation fighter jets, the French Dassault Rafale is a powerful contender, albeit one that tends to fly under the radar. This multi-role combat aircraft is a jack of all trades—it possesses the ability to handle air superiority, strategic attacks, as well as tasks related to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It’s ready to flex its muscles, boasting a dazzling array of armaments available across its 14 external hardpoints. 

Military doesn't want the F-22, the politicians want the F-22
Photo credit: Pixabay

Equipped with cutting-edge AESA radar that can track and engage multiple targets simultaneously, and powered by a pair of robust Snecma M88 engines that allow it to reach speeds of up to Mach 1.8, the Rafale has proven its worthiness in numerous operations. 

One of its most memorable moments was during a mock dogfight with a U.S. F-22 Raptor. Here, it confidently showcased its adaptability and raw power. We can anticipate seeing more of the Rafale, as the French military aims to keep it in active service well into the 2050s.

France’s air dominance solution

The importance of air power in today’s conflict scenarios cannot be overstated. It can determine the outcome of a conflict, especially when neither side holds air superiority, as was the case in Ukraine. When this happens, other aspects of warfare take the spotlight. 

A myriad of fighter jets can be used to establish aerial dominance. Notable examples include the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and the JAS 39 Gripen. However, the remarkable French jet, the Dassault Rafale, often doesn’t receive the recognition it so rightfully deserves.

One F-22 downed five Rafales, but one Rafale shot down an F-22
Video Screenshot

French Rafale

Imagine an advanced, fourth-generation multi-role fighter jet that excels in both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations. That’s the Dassault Rafale for you. Developed in the 1980s by Dassault, the Dassault Rafale was a response to the combined demands of the French Air Force and Navy for a versatile warbird that could replace seven different operational aircraft. Masterfully, the Rafale accomplishes this mission, skilfully managing air dominance, strategic strikes, close air support, maritime operations, nuclear deterrence, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance tasks. 

This formidable powerhouse of the French Air Force has an impressive capacity to carry a complex mix of weapon systems across its 14 external hard points. The astounding arsenal includes a Meteor very long-range air-to-air missile, MICA heat and radar-seeking air-to-air missile, the AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile, AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missile, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, SCALP-EG stand-off cruise missiles, HAMMER air-to-ground munitions, AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile, not to mention a variety of traditional and smart bombs. 

F-22 faces unlikely challenger in dogfights, not of Russian origin
Photo credit: Pixabay

But it doesn’t stop there. The Rafale boasts an external load capability of over 20,000 pounds, powered by an impressively potent Nexter 30M791 30mm cannon that can feed from a reserve of 2,500 rounds.

Rafale’s sensors

When we discuss the sensor system, the fighter jet in focus flaunts a sophisticated “Active Electronically Scanned Array” [AESA] RBE2 radar. This is not your average radar system. It can track an impressive 40 targets simultaneously and engage with four targets at the same time. 

But that’s not all. One of the distinctive features of the Dassault Rafale is its ingenious “buddy-buddy” refueling system. Have you ever imagined one Rafale refueling another in the middle of a flight? Well, this aircraft makes it a reality! And it’s not just for show. This feature has proven its utility in real operations, allowing the aircraft to remain airborne for an extraordinary 10+ hours. 

Egyptian Air Force surpassed 10,000 flight hours with French Rafales
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Now, let’s discuss power. Powered by dual Snecma M88 engines, this formidable machine can reach top speeds of Mach 1.8 and soar as high as 50,000 feet above the ground. With these specifications, it’s clear why the French military plans to retain the Dassault Rafale in their arsenal well into the 2050s.

Rafale beat the Raptor 

In 2009, the world got a glimpse of the incredible dogfighting prowess of the Rafale jet during an intriguing training event. This unfolded in the United Arab Emirates, where a Dassault Rafale brilliantly “defeated” a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet in a simulated skirmish. 

The U.S. Air Force, however, refuted this claim, instigating the French to produce a cockpit video capturing this momentous event. Despite the Rafale and its pilot being stretched to their maximum capacities, even reaching 9Gs at one point, this incident demonstrated the potential of the French fighter jet to “defeat” a stealth aircraft.

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