A French Air Force's Dassault Rafale B fighter

The French Air Force’s (ALA) first Rafale fighter aircraft has arrived at AAI’s Clermont Ferrand facility in Auvergne, France, to undergo an extensive modernisation programme.

Bearing a serial number C106, the single-seat fighter will be the first to be modified at the Aeronautical Industrial Workshop (AIA), as part of a contract awarded by the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) in February 2011. In total AAI will upgrade 52 aircraft to the latest configuration.

AAI has already completed initial conversion training and operational evaluation of 13 aircraft at the ALA’s Mont-de-Marsan air base, in South-Western France.

The upgrades are expected to improve the aircraft’s air-to-air and air-to-surface attack capabilities, boost its communications and interoperability, as well as enhancing its data exchange capabilities with ground-based troops.

AAI has also completed modification of the ten Rafale fighters to the latest standard in November 2011 for the French Navy.

Powered by two Snecma M88 turboprop engines, the Dassault Aviation-built Rafale is a delta-wing multi-role jet fighter designed to conduct air-to-air combat, reconnaissance flights and airborne nuclear bombing missions.

Featuring an advanced avionics suite and an electronic warfare system, the aircraft is also equipped with a laser warning receiver, missile warning, detection systems, jammers and laser designation pods.

The aircraft’s weaponry includes Mica air-to-air missile, AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile and ASMP-A nuclear weapon, as well as Raytheon-built GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

A total of 62 Rafale B and C fighters are currently operational with the ALA and have served during combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

Image: A French Air Force’s Dassault Rafale B fighter during its flight. Photo: courtesy of Dmitry A Mottl.