On April 6, 2017, teams from the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA), Dassault Aviation, MBDA and Thales successfully completed the final guided firing (integration flight test) of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile against an air target from a Rafale omnirole combat aircraft.
This firing, from a Rafale prepared at the DGA Flight Testing (Cazaux Test Center), proceeded within a secured zone of DGA Missiles Testing (Biscarrosse Test Center). The Meteor successfully engaged and destroyed at a very long range a high-speed air target (Mirach) simulating an evading fighter aircraft.
This fifth, global, firing completed the full integration flight testing campaign of the Meteor air-to-air missile onto the Rafale omnirole combat aircraft.
Since the first test on April 28, 2015, this campaign, conducted smoothly and uneventfully, demonstrated and confirmed superior performances than those expected at the inception. All the functionalities were successfully tested (such as the activation of the data-link between the Rafale and the missile) in numerous aircraft flight conditions (speed, load factor) and electronic warfare environment.
Just after the Meteor firing, a (simulated) firing of the currently-used MICA (RF) air-to-air missile was triggered to demonstrate that the Rafale and its crew can efficiently manage a multi-targets warfighting situation, and then engage them with multi-firings.
Equipped with a throttleable ramjet motor and featuring a “fire and forget” firing mode, Meteor is intended for very long BVR (Beyond Visual Range) air defense operations.
Thanks to the extended range capability of its RBE2 AESA (Active Electronically-Scanned Array) radar (noteworthy is the fact that the Rafale is the only European combat aircraft in operational service to incorporate today the cutting-edge “AESA” radar technology), the Rafale equipped with the Meteor will be able, from 2018 (Rafale “F3R”), to intercept targets at very long range, when the MICA (RF/IR) missile will complement this truly impressive air-to-air capability, both for combat interception and self-defense.
The Rafale is already an extremely effective new-generation, combat proven (Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, Iraq, and Syria), omnirole tactical fighter, but development is continuing apace to exploit more and more of the aircraft’s tremendous capabilities, and to seamlessly add new ones.
-- The Rafale will ultimately replace all the current types of legacy fighter aircraft in the inventory of the French Air Force and the French Navy.
-- The Rafale is the first aircraft to have been designed, from the outset, to take off and land both from land bases and from aircraft carriers.
-- To date, 180 production aircraft have been ordered for the French Air Force (in two versions: the single-seater Rafale C and the two-seater Rafale B) and for the French Navy (the single-seater Rafale M). Since 2015, 84 Rafale aircraft have also been ordered for the Egyptian Air Force (24 aircraft), for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (24 aircraft) and for the Indian Air Force (36 aircraft).
-- As of April 26, 2017, 148 production aircraft have been delivered to French warfighters (46 Rafales M for the Navy; 48 Rafales C and 54 Rafales B for the Air Force) and nine Rafales have been delivered to the Egyptian Air Force.
Missions of the Rafale omnirole fighter:
-- air defence and air superiority;
-- close air support;
-- deep strike;
-- engagement of surface targets (with laser-guided bombs, all-weather stand-off precision weapons, or cruise missiles); SEAD/DEAD capabilities;
-- anti-ship attack;
-- nuclear strike;
-- real time tactical and strategic reconnaissance (ground and naval targets);
-- in-flight refuelling (“buddy-buddy” tanker capability for the Rafale M).