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    The Rafale Rising: French Fighter Jet’s Soaring Popularity Faces Production Challenges

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    St Paul's Bay, Malta - September 24, 2021: French Air Force Dassault Rafale C (REG: 140) on a practice display over the sea.
    St Paul’s Bay, Malta – September 24, 2021: French Air Force Dassault Rafale C (REG: 140) on a practice display over the sea.

    The Dassault Rafale, a multirole fighter jet that has been a staple in French military aviation since its service entry in 2001, has carved a niche for itself on the global stage.

    The term “Rafale” translates to “burst of fire,” a fitting moniker for a fighter jet that can boast of shooting down America’s advanced fifth-generation warplane, the F-22A Raptor, in a recent simulated combat exercise.

    Initially, the American forces were skeptical of the claims made by the French pilot. During the wargame in question, the F-22 showcased exceptional performance by eliminating six Rafales and engaging in combat with five more.

    However, one Rafale pilot executed a daring maneuver, subjecting the aircraft to 9Gs to catch up with the F-22. Subsequently, the pilot successfully fired an infrared missile that acquired a lock on the F-22, resulting in the downing of the American aircraft during the exercise.

    This instance, while questioned by the Americans, illustrates the Rafale’s capabilities and the strategic edge it provides.

    As a multi-mission warplane, it specializes in air superiority, ground attack, reconnaissance, and even nuclear deterrence.

    Equipped with two Snecma M88 engines, the Rafale reaches top speeds of Mach 1.8 and can operate from both land bases and aircraft carriers, highlighting its adaptability.

    Its avionics system is equally impressive, featuring a radar that can track multiple targets and a digital fly-by-wire control system for unparalleled maneuverability.

    The French have capitalized on geopolitical nuances to market the Rafale, particularly in regions like the Middle East, where the F-35 Lightning II faces sales restrictions due to American alliances and security policies.

    France’s refusal to be limited by such political considerations has allowed them to secure deals in countries where the F-35 remains off-limits.

    The Rafale’s success story, however, is not without its production challenges. Dassault Aviation has struggled to keep up with the burgeoning demand, a fact underscored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) analysis.

    The company’s promise of a three-year delivery time from contract signature is being tested as orders stack up.

    France has acquired 234 Rafale fighter jets, and an additional 261 have been requested by different countries, as reported by Defense News.

    The key question now is whether Dassault Aviation can fulfill this high demand. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimates Dassault’s production backlog to be at 228 aircraft.

    The challenge will be especially significant from 2026 to 2033, during which Dassault will be required to supply 174 Rafales to France, 42 to Indonesia, 80 to the UAE, and 10 to Egypt.

    Relevant articles:
    Dassault Rafale: The French Fighter Jet That Can Beat Air Force F-22 Raptors, nationalinterest.org
    Dassault Rafale: The Fighter Jet Every Air Force Wants to Fly, The National Interest
    France’s Rafale fighter jet is so popular its manufacturer can’t keep up, Yahoo News Singapore
    France’s Rafale fighter jet is so popular its manufacturer can’t keep up, Business Insider

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