Here are very interesting extracts about the AASM capabilities (for the record) :
[...] The greatest operational value of the AASM is that it is a true stand-off weapon, which means it can be fired safely from outside the range of existing
enemy short and medium range air defence systems, whether at high or low
altitude. According to Lieutenant General Patrick Chareix, of the French Air Force
CDAOA staff, this fact was proven on several occasions during the initial phase of the interdiction campaign over Libya where the Rafales operated without the need of any dedicated SEAD asset —and
to the big surprise of the USAF theatre commander on one specific action against a Libyan SA-3 “Goa” SAM site in March 2011!.
Its solid rocket propulsion system gives the AASM a range of over 50 km when fired from high altitude, and
over 15 km for low-altitude firing. In the latter case, the AASM can also climb over its release point to avoid difficult terrain, while providing a near vertical terminal trajectory for better final precision.
These characteristics are awsome, as most of the time, the AASM strikes come as a full surprise for an observer on the ground, for the simple reason that the launch aircraft is unseen and unheard… even more when the launch aircraft is a Rafale, thanks to its stealthy characteristics.
|AASM launch domain ©Latinaero|
From the operational standpoint, this enables the aircraft to immediately engage its target, without having to manoeuvre to place the launching aircraft in position, as would be required for other existing laser or GPS-guided tactical weapons.
A very valuable tactical advantage is also that the AASM allows a single aircraft to engage up to six targets simultaneously ! For example one Rafale fighter fitted with two triple underwing Rafaut hard-points —as was the case during “Opération Harmattan” over Libya— can loiter and attack successively or in a single action up to six targets of different nature located in opposing directions. For that, the Rafale pilot (or navigator in the two-seat models) can use target coordinates previously programmed on the ground during mission briefing, or even in flight at the last minute in the case of time-sensitive targets ! This in-flight reprogramming capability relies on new coordinates either sourced through the Rafale’s tactical data link terminal (NATO L-16) or obtained via the laser rangemeter of a Damoclès targeting pod.
So, Jean-Michel Guhl confirms, once and for all, in this article that the AASM can be launched at a target behind the aircraft, and so, apparently even at low altitude (see the AASM lauch domain drawing above). Moreover, the Rafale/AASM combo can perform a 180° off boresight attack in a multarget scenario which is quite amazing
Also worth reading, a handfull of very instructive articles about the Rafale engagements over Libya :
Hammer does it again
French Air Force Rafales continue to hammer down Kadhafi’s forces piecemeal
French Rafales strike deep into Libya
Target Libya ! French fighters now leading the way
Eyecandy from the links above ;)