From 2006 to 2011, French Air Force and Navy Rafale fighters were engaged in countless combat missions in Afghanistan where they demonstrated a very high proficiency and a tangible military value. The AASM/HAMMER precision-guided modular air-to-surface armament, PAVEWAY laser-guided bombs, and the 30 mm cannon were employed on many occasions, scoring direct hits with remarkable precision.
In 2011, French Air and Space Force and French Navy Rafale fighters were successfully engaged in coalition operations over Libya. They were the first fighters to operate over Benghazi and Tripoli, and they carried out the whole spectrum of missions the Rafale was designed for: air-superiority, precision strikes with HAMMERS and laser-guided bombs, deep strike with SCALP cruise missiles, Intelligence, Surveillance, Tactical Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance (SCAR). During the Libyan conflict, hundreds of targets – tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery emplacements, storage dumps, command centres and air-defence systems (fixed and mobile SAM launchers) – were hit with controlled accuracy by Rafale aircrews.
Since early 2013, French Air Force Rafales have taken a leading role in Mali, helping destroy enemy infrastructure and support friendly troops in contact. Four Rafales undertook the longest raid in French Air Force history, taking off from Saint-Dizier, in eastern France, and landing in N’Djamena, in Chad, after hitting 21 targets and spending no less than 9 h 35 min airborne. The French Air Force quickly set up a forward operating base in Chad, and the Rafale detachment later grew to eight aircraft for operations in the Sahelo-Saharan strip and in the Central African Republic.
Rafales have actively been engaged in support of operations in Iraq and Syria as part of a wide international coalition, conducting long distance raid to fire SCALP cruise missiles.
In Syria, Rafales operate in difficult conditions, far from their bases, taking advantage of their huge operational range to strike distant targets with clinical accuracy. French Navy Rafales flying from the deck of nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle have allowed a significant increase in the number of combat aircraft in theatre.
The Rafale takes an active role securing the NATO airspace (Enhanced Air Policing) in the Eastern part of Europe: after the Russian aggression in Ukraine, French Air and Space Force Rafale fighters later supported by their French Navy counterparts conducted combat air patrol and were kept at short-notice readiness during the whole 2022/2023 winter in the Baltic States. The Rafale was the only combat aircraft to demonstrate a capability to deploy without delay to two other neighbouring countries while still conducting its QRA mission.
The Rafale has also demonstrated its ability to undertake long-duration missions (over 10 hours) and to deploy to overseas territories in the Pacific in less than 48 hours.