Rafale deployment history

Numerous batches of Rafale fighters have been ordered by the French Armed Forces, covering a total of 234 aircraft for the French Air and Space Force and for the French Navy. Several export contracts have been signed with:

  • Egypt, for a total of 55 Rafales,
  • India, for 36 Rafales,
  • Qatar, for 36 Rafales,
  • Greece, for 12 ex-French aircraft and 12 new-built Rafales,
  • Croatia, for 12 ex-French Rafales,
  • the United Arab Emirates, for 80 Standard F4 Rafales,
  • Indonesia, for 42 Rafales.

Capabilities are developed incrementally, and released in packages (“standards”). The first release (standard F1) featured only air-to-air capabilities. It became operational in 2004 with French Navy Rafales launching from the Charles de Gaulle nuclear aircraft-carrier during operation “Enduring Freedom”.

The second capability release (standard F2) entered service in the French Air Force and in the French Navy in 2006. It provided the Rafale with true “Omnirole” capabilities for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

Standard F3 is the current release. It was qualified by the French MoD in 2008. It adds air reconnaissance with the AREOS recce pod, anti-ship with the AM39 EXOCET (implemented in Rafale B, C, and M), and the nuclear capability with the ASMPA. The first Rafale F3 was delivered to the French Air Force Operational Evaluation Centre (CEAM) in mid-2008 at Mont-de- Marsan Air Base, in full accordance with the contracted delivery schedule.

The first Standard F4 Rafale fighters were delivered to both the French Air and Space Force and to the French Navy in early 2023. The entire French Rafale fleet is now being brought up to the F4 Standard.

Seven French Air Force and three French Navy units are equipped with the Rafale:

  • Escadron de Chasse 1/4 “Gascogne”, at Saint-Dizier;
  • Escadron de Chasse 2/4 “La Fayette”, at Saint-Dizier;
  • Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4 “Aquitaine”, at Saint-Dizier;
  • Escadron de Chasse et d’Expérimentation 1/30 “Côte d’Argent”, at Mont-de-Marsan;
  • Escadron de Chasse 2/30 “Normandie-Niemen”, in Mont-de-Marsan;
  • Escadron de Chasse 3/30 “Lorraine”, at Mont-de-Marsan;
  • Escadron de Chasse 1/7 “Provence” at Al Dhafra, in the United Arab Emirates,
  • Flottilles 11F, 12F and 17F at Landivisiau and on board carrier Charles de Gaulle.

The Rafale regularly participates in numerous multinational exercises: Red Flag, ATLC, Tiger Meet, Maple Flag, Arctic Challenge, Pitch Black, Bold Quest…. The Rafale M is the only non-US type of fighter cleared to operate from the decks of US carriers, using their catapults and their arresting gear.