French Air Force to acquire 42 Dassault Rafale aircraft

Inflight view of a Dassault Rafale fighter jet.
Photo Credit: Dassault Aviation

At the end of December 2023, the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) awarded Dassault Aviation an order for 42 Rafale combat aircraft, known as “tranche 5”, for the French Air Force (AAE).

This strategic acquisition reinforces the nation’s commitment to military prowess and underlines the continuing role played by Dassault Aviation in enhancing France’s military-industrial sovereignty.

The Tranche 5 Contract

Expressing gratitude, Éric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, extended appreciation to the Ministry for the Armed Forces, the DGA, and the AAE for their continued trust.

Trappier emphasized the readiness and determination of Dassault Aviation, serving as the prime contractor and complex systems integrator, to contribute to the sovereignty of the nation.

The unique military industrial sovereignty, a rarity in Europe, not only ensures the superiority of combat aviation but also acts as a cornerstone for diplomatic influence and economic strength in export trade.

Global Success of the Rafale

The Rafale, hailed as a technical, operational, and commercial triumph, consistently positions France as a global leader in combat aircraft.

Its adaptability through successive standards, with the upcoming Standard 4 focusing on connectivity and Standard 5 gearing up for launch, showcases its commitment to incorporating the latest technologies to meet user needs.


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The Rafale’s success extends beyond French borders, with seven customer countries to date.

The order book, coupled with the recent “tranche 5” contract, not only ensures production activity for the next decade but also solidifies its place in the export market.

Reviewing the Rafale’s Capabilities

Omni-Role capability

The Rafale stands as the world’s sole fully “omni-role” aircraft, operational from both land bases and aircraft carriers. It boasts the capability to carry 1.5 times its weight in weapons and fuel, making it a versatile force.

Mission Application

  • Air-to-Air: Armed with a 30mm gun, Mica IR/EM missiles, and Meteor long-range missiles.
  • Close Air Support (CAS): Equipped with a 30mm gun, GBU laser-guided bombs, and AASM GPS-guided bombs.
  • Deep Strikes: Capable of executing deep strikes with Scalp/Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
  • Anti-Ship Attack: Armed with Exocet AM39 Block 2 missiles and other air-to-surface weapons.
  • Reconnaissance: Real-time tactical and strategic reconnaissance with the Areos pod.
  • In-Flight Refueling: Enables in-flight refueling from one Rafale to another (“buddy-buddy”).
  • Nuclear Deterrence: Exclusive to France, the Rafale holds the capability for nuclear deterrence with the ASMP-A missile.

Rafale’s Operational Legacy

Entering service with the French Navy in 2004 and the French Air Force in 2006, the Rafale has gradually replaced seven types of combat aircraft from previous generations.

Its combat prowess has been demonstrated in various theaters, including Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria.

A Glance at Rafale Orders

France’s commitment to the Rafale is evident through orders spanning five tranches: 13 Rafales in 1993, 48 in 1999, 59 in 2004, 60 in 2009, and the recent 42 in 2023.

Additionally, a special order for 12 Rafale fighters in 2021 replaced the 12 aircraft transferred to Greece. French orders tally to an impressive 234 Rafale aircraft.

Export orders paint a global picture, with a total of 261 Rafales secured by various nations, including Egypt, Qatar, India, Greece, United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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