From Afganistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq & Syria, the recently purchased Rafale jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) have outclassed its enemies everywhere and has never-ever been shot down. The Rafales have been part of multi-operational missions and have proved its operational capabilities and air superiority, consistently across the globe.
As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, the IAF received the delivery of Rafale jets from France last week. A 4++ generation jet, India has put its faith in the French aircraft and looking at its operational history in different countries, the faith is justified.
Produced by Dassault Aviation, Rafales jets were first delivered to the French Navy in December 2000. The jets were part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ but did not participate in any combat role.
The Rafales first got to display their ability in Afghanistan on 12th March 2007 when first GBU-12 (heavy-weight, laser-guided bombs) were launched on 28 March to assist the cornered Dutch troops in Southern Afghanistan.
Between January 2009 and December 2011, around three Rafale jets were stationed at Kandahar Airport to conduct combat operations in support of NATO ground forces. From 2006 to 2011, French Air Force and Navy Rafale jets were part of countless combat missions in Afghanistan where they exhibited a very high proficiency and a substantial military value.
The AASM/HAMMER precision-guided modular air-to-surface armament, PAVEWAY laser-guided bombs, and the 30 mm cannon were used several times, hitting its intended targets with extraordinary accuracy.
After displaying its prowess in Afghanistan, Rafale jets next proved themselves in Libya. In 2011, French Air Force and French Navy Rafale fighters were successfully engaged in coalition operations over Libya.
They were the first fighters to operate over Benghazi and Tripoli and they carried out the whole spectrum of missions the Rafale was designed for: air-superiority, precision strikes with HAMMERS and laser-guided bombs, deep strike with SCALP cruise missiles, Intelligence, Surveillance, Tactical Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance (SCAR).
During the Libyan conflict, hundreds of targets – tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery emplacements, storage dumps, command centres and air-defence systems (SA-3 Goa and SA-8 Gecko fixed and mobile SAM launchers) – were hit with devastating accuracy.
The operation of Rafales in Libya did not end there. Recently Rafale jets from the Egyptian Air Force evaded all radars, missile defence systems and bombed Turkish facilities in Libya.
Mali, Iraq and Syria
Apart from Libya and Afghanistan, French Rafales also have had strong combat experience in the middle-east and Africa. In 2013, the Rafale took part in “Opération Serval”, the French military intervention in support to the government of Mali against the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
The first mission was carried out on 13 January, when four Rafales took off from an airbase in France to strike rebel training camps, depots and facilities in the city of Gao, eastern Mali. Subsequent airstrikes in the following days by Rafale and Mirage fighters were reportedly instrumental in the withdrawal of Islamist militant forces from Timbuktu and Douentza.
In Iraq and Syria, Rafales operated in challenging conditions, far from their bases, taking advantage of their huge operational range to strike distant targets with clinical accuracy. Air Force Rafales now operate out of two countries in the area while their naval colleagues flew from the deck of nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, thus significantly increasing the number of combat aircraft in theatre.
In September 2014, Rafales began flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq as part of Opération Chammal, France’s contribution to the international effort to combat Islamic State militants. Six (later nine) Rafales were initially tasked with identifying IS positions in support of US airstrikes, flying from Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE.
On 18 September, Rafales joined American operations in conducting attacks, launching four strikes near the Northern Iraqi town of Zummar that destroyed a logistics depot and killed dozens of IS fighters.
In April 2018, during the Syrian Civil War, five Rafale B fighters from the Escadron de Chasse 1/4 Gascogne participated in the 2018 missile strikes against Syria. Each jet was loaded with two SCALP EG missiles.
The Rafales have never been shot down but has been involved in two incidents. On 6 December 2007, a Rafale jet crashed during a training flight. The pilot was killed in the accident. On 24 September 2009, two French Navy Rafales returning to the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle collided mid-air about in southwest France. One test pilot was killed while the other was rescued.