The Dassault Rafale (French, Squall) is a French twin-engine delta-wing fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Dassault described the Rafale as being an omnirole fighter. The Rafale is a multirole combat aircraft; capable of simultaneously undertaking air supremacy, interdiction, and reconnaissance missions.

In the late 1970s, the Armée de l'Air and Marine Nationale were seeking to replace and consolidate their current fleets of aircraft. In order to reduce development costs and boost prospective sales, France entered into an arrangement with four other European nations to produce an agile multi-purpose fighter, but subsequent disagreements over workshare and differing requirements led to France's pursuit of its own development program. Dassault built a technology demonstrator which first flew in July 1986 as part of an eight-year flight-test programme, paving the way for the go-ahead of the project.

The Rafale's design and production processes exploited the unprecedented advancements in software technology; these have enabled the integration of formerly individual components and combined with intelligent automated analysis processes, known collectively as data fusion. Many of the aircraft's avionics and features, such as direct voice input (DVI), the RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) RDF and the Optronique secteur frontal (OSF) infra-red search and track sensor, were indigenously developed and produced for the Rafale programme.

Introduced in 1996, the Rafale is being produced for both the Armée de l'Air and for carrier-based operations in the Marine Nationale. It has also been marketed for export to several countries. Several upgrades to the radar, engines, and avionics of the Rafale are planned to be introduced in the near-future.


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