A wide range of smart and discrete sensors

RBE2 / AESA – “Active Electronically Scanned Array” radar

The Rafale is the first European combat aircraft to use an electronic scanning radar. Developed by Thales, the RBE2 radar has benefited from a massive research effort and from Thales’ unmatched know-how based on past experience. Compared to radars with conventional antennas, unprecedented levels of situational awareness are attained with earlier detection and tracking of multiple targets.

With its superior beam agility and its enormous computing power, the RBE2 offers outstanding performance that cannot be replicated by mechanical scanning radars.

In October 2012, the first Rafale fighter equipped with an “Active Electronically Scanned Array” (AESA) RBE2 radar was delivered to the French MoD. The AESA provides a wide range of functions:

  • All-aspect look-up and look-down detection and tracking of multiple air targets for close combat and long-range interception in the entire detection and tracking volume, in all weather and in severe jamming environments,
  • Ability to track targets in, or out of the search domain, bringing the ultimate advantage in air combat,
  • Real time generation of three-dimensional maps for terrain-following above uncharted terrain in blind conditions. The Rafale is the sole new generation combat aircraft to currently propose such a function,
  • Presentation in real time to the crew of high resolution 2D ground maps for the detection, identification and designation of ground targets and for navigation updates,
  • Detection and tracking of multiple naval targets.

The RBE2-AESA is fully compatible in terms of detection range with the long range METEOR air-to-air missile. The AESA offers an unprecedented growth-potential for the future.

In those situations where discretion becomes the single most important tactical factor, the Rafale can rely on several other sensor systems:

“Front Sector Optronics” – FSO

Developed by Thales, the “Front Sector Optronics” (FSO) system is fully integrated into the aircraft and its weapon system. Operating in the optronic (visible and infrared) wavelengths, it is immune to radar jamming and it provides covert long-range detection and identification, high resolution angular tracking and laser range-finding for air, sea and ground targets.

The FSO allows stealthy targets to be detected and tracked, placing the Rafale and its combat sphere at the centre of future engagements, while visually identifying targets at stand-off distances, as required by the rules of engagement.

SPECTRA – internal Electronic Warfare suite

Jointly developed by Thales and MBDA, the SPECTRA internal “Electronic Warfare” (EW) system is the cornerstone of the Rafale’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats.

It is fully integrated with other systems in the aircraft, and it provides a multi-spectral threat warning capability against hostile radars, missiles and lasers.

The SPECTRA system carries out reliable long-range detection, identification and localisation of threats, allowing the pilot to instantly select the most effective defensive measures based on combinations of radar jamming, infrared or radar decoying and evasive manoeuvres.

The angular localisation performance of the SPECTRA sensors makes it possible to accurately locate ground threats in order to avoid them, or to target them for destruction with precision guided munitions.

The outstanding capability of SPECTRA regarding airborne threat localisation is one of the keys of the Rafale’s superior situational awareness.

Also instrumental in SPECTRA’s performance is a threat library that can be easily defined, integrated and updated on short notice by users in their own country, and in full autonomy.

SPECTRA has benefited from the introduction of a new generation missile warning system that offers increased detection performance against the latest threats.

Net-centric capability for collaborative combat

Thanks to its net-centric ability to share data, the Rafale is totally connected to the other battlespace assets. This capability hinges on its open architecture that allows the simultaneous use of multiple broadband datalinks. The Rafale can share tactical data in real time with other aircraft in the formation, and with airborne and surface command and control centres, tactical air controllers or other friendly assets.

As a net-centric capable asset, the Rafale can exchange images. Thanks to the Rover (“Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver”) system, Rafale aircrews can share videos or images of the target with forward air controllers on the ground, thus helping prevent blue-on-blue incidents and collateral damage, a decisive advantage in peacekeeping operations.

The Rafale is equipped with a Link 16 or with a non-NATO customer-specific solution depending on the customers’ requirements. Its interoperability, as part of a multinational operation, has been demonstrated on countless occasions.

The Rafale will soon be equipped with a trans-horizon connectivity capability via a satellite link.

TALIOS – Targeting and Laser designation pod

The TALIOS targeting and laser designator pod designed by Thales brings full day and night surveillance, identification and laser designation capability to the Rafale, with metric precision. It permits laser-guided weapons to be delivered at stand-off range and altitude.

The IR sensor of the TALIOS pod operates in the mid-wave infrared band and is coupled to a high-resolution new generation TV sensor.

TALIOS is interoperable with all existing laser-guided weapons. It also allows reconnaissance tasks to be undertaken, and will soon allow pre-planned recce missions to be conducted.

Helmet-mounted display

The French Air and Space Force and the French Navy have chosen the Thales SCORPION® helmet-mounted display for their Rafale fighters.

The SCORPION® is a high-tech system used to facilitate and accelerate target acquisition and designation.

It projects right in front of the eyes of the pilot and of the weapon system operator a symbology that considerably ameliorates the perception of the situation, especially outside the limits of the cockpit.

This helmet allows the simultaneous use of the helmet-mounted display and of night vision goggles.

Other types of helmet-mounted displays have been integrated into the Rafale to meet the specific requirements of a number of export customers.