Is the successful French fighter better than the American most versatile jet?
Dassault Rafale is one of the most popular and advanced military fighters in the world. The aircraft is one of the best choices for nations’ Air Forces as it’s produced by France. But except for being built in the European Union, the Rafale is also an excellent multirole fighter that can compete with the best in the world. The aircraft participates in the most advanced and important aerial training exercises and simulations
But how does such a good fighter compares to another powerful multirole jet like the F-35 Lightning II? Is the successful French fighter better than the American most versatile jet?
What Makes Dassault Rafale A Success
First of all, Rafale is a French twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation. The aircraft features a canard delta wing design and carries some of the most effective weapons ever built. In 2021, there are a few nations that have ordered Rafale and wait for their arrival. Such countries are Egypt, Greece, India, and Qatar.
All of these countries have received several fighters and operate them since then. As a multirole fighter, the aircraft can be deployed in a variety of different missions like anti-ship attacks, tactical strikes, nuclear conflicts, and, of course, air supremacy and reconnaissance. It made its first flight in 1986 and so far there are 237 aircraft built by Dassault Aviation.
Dassault has designed and built three different variants of the Rafale: the Rafale C – the standard single-seat, the Rafale B – a twin-seat version, and the Rafale M – a single-seat carrier-based version used by the French navy. The aircraft can carry a variety of different missiles and launchers/systems based on the requirements of each mission.
For example, the Mica IR and EM are air-to-air missiles for air superiority missions, the SCALP EG are cruise missiles for ground attacks, the AM39 Exocet is a sea-skimming missile for anti-ship missions, and MBDA Meteor is beyond-visual-range missiles for missions that require greater range.
There is more equipment that the Rafale could carry in special missions like sensors for reconnaissance purposes. Rafale has always a 30 mm GIAT 30 revolver cannon mounted on itself. The interesting part with this cannon is that it’s able to shoot laser-guided and ground-attack missiles.
The Dassault Rafale serves for many years for the French military forces. It has proven itself on the battlefield many times. The fighter has participated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mali, and Libya. The majority of their missions were very successful, and the aircraft performed excellently in every situation. The aircraft is one of the most advanced fourth-generation fighters in general. It carries deadly missiles, it is equipped with very capable systems and it has proven its versatility and reliability many times.
The F-35 Lightning II
If you haven’t already noticed, the F-35 Lightning II is the American Rafale. It’s the best all-weather multirole combat aircraft that the US operates. Don’t compare it to the F-22, as the Raptor is an air superiority fighter. Like Rafale, USAF deployed the Lightning in many different roles and missions. The aircraft has excellent stealth capabilities and three available variants, the F-35B (STOLV operated by the US Marines Corps), the F-35C (carrier-based version operated by the US Navy), and the F-35A (CTOL operated by the US Air Force).
Like Rafale, the F-35 can carry a lot of different types of armament based on the purpose of its missions. Munition like the Joint Direct Attack Munition air-to-surface missiles, SPEAR 3 anti-tank missiles, GBU-39 precision-guided glide bombs, and AGM-18 Joint air-to-surface cruise missiles are all available for use.
This aircraft can carry nuclear weapons too and can also be equipped with special systems and sensors if the mission requires it. It’s impossible to list every missile and weapon because many countries operate them and have added their munition.
How The Two Fighters Are Being Compared
The two multi-role aircraft can operate in every mission and perform excellently. Both fighters have the advanced systems and armament needed to be considered the best of its kind in the world right now. But which one would win in a comparison between the two?
The F-35 Lighting II has stealth capabilities, a very decisive feature that is missing from the Rafale. On the other hand, the Rafale F4 is equipped with the Meteor (beyond visual range) missiles which are probably the most effective and dangerous missiles of their type. Although, the F-35 are meant to be equipped with similar missiles in the next few years. But Dassault has potential plans for the Rafale too and has already proposed the F5 version of the aircraft.
Although, it’s very difficult to compare the two aircraft in every aspect, it’s easier to predict a winner in a possible dogfight. If the conflict happens within visual range (close combat), the Rafale would probably win as it’s more agile and has better maneuverability.
But, if the conflict happens before the Rafale could detect the F-35 (beyond visual range), then the American aircraft would have the chance to take advantage of its stealth profile and hit the French one first. So, the winner depends on the situation and the distance between the two competitors.