In response to Friday’s horrific terror attacks in Paris, France is ramping up its air power and taking the fight to Islamic State.
Following the attacks France has conducted a series of airstrikes against the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in northeastern Syria. The strikes were coordinated with U.S. forces.
These missions focused on targets including an ISIS command center, munitions depot, recruiting post and a training camp. French fighters also conducted strikes earlier this year in the weeks following the tragic terrorist attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Reports indicate that France’s Rafale jet is once again playing a key role in the fight against ISIS.
The Rafale fighter jet can conduct air-to-air attacks and interceptions. It can also conduct air-to-ground strikes.
The aircraft has a wingspan just shy of 36 feet and is approximately 50 feet long with a height of about 17 feet.
This fast jet can reach speeds of 860 mph and fly at a ceiling of 50,000 feet. The landing ground run is about 1,500 feet without a drag chute.
The twin-engine fighter can be refueled in air using the French “buddy to buddy” system. When empty, the aircraft weighs 22,000 pounds and its maximum takeoff weight is 54,000 pounds.
Bringing nine tons of weaponry to the fight
Rafale can carry about nine tons of weaponry and ordnance – and it can be armed with a number of different options.
For attack or self-defense needs, both in visual range and beyond, the Rafale can be equipped with MICA air-to-air missiles. These missiles can either deploy as heat-seeking (IR) or active radar (EM). Rafale will also be able to carry the METEOR long-range air-to-air missile when it becomes available.
This fighter can also carry the SCALP long-range missile, the AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missile as well as laser-guided bombs.
For air-to-ground strikes, Rafale can be armed with HAMMER (Highly Agile and Maneuverable Munition Extended Range), a rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon.
Both the single and two-seater variants can carry the NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon that delivers 2,500 rounds per minute.
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There are a number of Rafale variants, and the French Ministry of Defense has received 180 of the aircraft from manufacturer Dassault Aviation. The French Air Force got 63 Rafale B two-seaters and 69 Rafale C single-seaters. The French Navy got 48 of the aircraft as Rafale M naval single-seaters.
France has previously deployed its Rafales in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali and Central African Republic. Rafales are also popular with foreign governments like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which have both acquired fleets of them.
Reports suggest that France has nine Rafales already placed in the U.A.E. and six Mirage fighters in Jordan. With aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle headed towards the Middle East again, it could bring more than 20 additional fighters to the region for France.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.