Monday, January 30, 2012

In the press, Dassault magazine 148

The last issue of Dassault Magazine has a nice article by Henri Hémon about the nuclear Rafale which are operated by the 01.091 Gascogne squadron.

Operational since July 2010, the squadron  primary mission is nuclear deterence with the 300kt ASMP-A nuclear missile (along with 2x2000L drop tanks and 6 mica). According to pilots the training focuses on low altitude terrain following and inflight refueling. Each mission lasts between 5 to 6 hours and is usualy performed at night (using NVG) without electromagnetic emission to insure the discretion of the attack. Hence a digital map is prefered to the radar in order to achieve the terrain following function.

However, the radar and the link16 can be used at any moment to engage hostile fighters as the Rafale also carries 6 BVR mica missiles. That's a huge improvement compared to the Mirage 2000N which only had 2 magic II short range missiles for its selfdefense. With such a missile load, the Rafale can protect its own tanker and is much more difficult to intercept than its predecessor.

Besides the nuclear mission, the Gascogne is also tasked with conventional reconnaissance (reco NG pod) and air to ground missions with classic GBU, or stand off AASM and Scalp missiles. It is worth noting that all those capabilities were demonstrated by the squadron during the Libyan conflict. That was possible because the pilots comes from different specialized squadrons within the French Air Force: The core of the staff are former Mirage 2000N pilots/WSO completed by pilots who are expert in air defense, conventional strike and reconnaissance (former Mirage 2000 C/D/-5 and Mirage F1 CR/CT pilots).


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