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 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, armored vehicles, artillery emplacements, storage dumps, command centres and air-defense systems (SA-3 Goa and SA-8 Gecko fixed and mobile SAM launchers) – were hit with devastating accuracy by Rafale aircrews.
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. This represented the first time the Rafale had operated from a FOB in Africa.
More recently, Rafales were engaged in support of peace-keeping operations in the Central African Republic, and as part of a wide international coalition in Iraq.
In Iraq and Syria, Rafales operate in difficult conditions, far from their bases, taking advantage of their huge operational range to strike distant targets with clinical accuracy. Air Force Rafales now operate out of two countries in the area while their naval colleagues flew from the deck of nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, thus significantly increasing the number of combat aircraft in theatre.