The Rafales for the Rescue
The base scenario can be read from HERE and other instalments of scenario can be read also: Gripen, F/A-18 E/F/G, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed F-35.
Disclaimer: I work with open sources, and have not any knowledge about HX-programs scenarios. So as to accuracy of these predictions is low to moderate at the best.
Rafale in ACE 2017 in Rovaniemi photo: Tomi Hämäläinen
(Dassault did not comment if Rafale will carry Meteors in twin pods like Gripen is going to do, and Meteor may end up only be carried in right and left fuselage after positions. Dassault is offering foreign air forces the possibility of loading four Meteors (France is going to do with two) Even though Rafale has whooping 14 hard points, out of these five are wet/heavy type of positions. Wingtips and exterior wing pylons are rated for about 120 kg weight, and can thus carry only different AA missiles. (MICA, Sidewinder, ASRAAM, PYTHON)
Number of pylons is important because even though the pylons cannot/are not usually be loaded to max. Different weapons weight differently and desired effects in target have to be considered in loading up the bird.
Dassault has not been very forthcoming with loading options, and for example, did not reveal if there is a twin pylon capable of carrying two METEORS in pipeline. NOr does it seem that there is twin pylon for MICA either. There would be room in outer wing position, but none of my open sources can confirm if the position is rated to anything more than approximately 120kg.
Other than that Rafale can carry astonishing 10 tons of ordnance
||3000l drop tank
Rafale’s OSF and RBE 2 Radar are really good, but Rafale lacks the two-way interface with Meteor, which will hamper meteor’s performance somewhat. In paper RBE 2 radar can guide simultaneously up to 8 missiles, but that may not be tactically feasible use of missiles. and will cut down the sending power available to each guidance instance.
Each Rafale fighter in Fourship carry
- 4 METEOR
- 4 MICA
- 2 Exocet
- 3000l droptank
- Reco or Litening pod
So close to 5600kg of stuff, or about 55% of maximum load of the craft. Rafales will be plenty maneuverable with these loads. Also combination of four MICA and four METEOR give robust long range performance for the fourship.
Russian Suhoi SU-35 fighters have the edge in speed and in altitude, but their IRBIS-E PESA radars may well be unable to pick Rafales in heavy EW environment with SPECTRE DASS jamming the Russian planes. And also because out of HX candidates Rafale is the second most stealthy option. Particularly against IR domain. Russians’ big Saturn engines on the other hand give nice visible heat bloom against cold space and are thus quite early picked up by OSF optic system. The Optronic capabilities are further enhanced by MICA IR’s capability to feedback information to the plane via pylon, givin in essence Rafale a extremely good IRST capability. This feedback to Modular Data Processing Unit is indeed great boon for Rafale as this gives fighter multiple infrared arrays to pick up heat from, and makes triangulation of targets faster. This type of technology was not possible earlier because earlier generations of heat seeking missiles relied of nitrogen cooled seekers that ran out of juice and burned up if few tens of seconds.
Meteor as a missile gives quite decisive edge with its enormous no-escape zone. I have even seen range quotas for Meteor going as far as 300km. But I take more conservative about 200km range, and “official” 60km No-Escape zone. MICA missiles give a good account as well being stealthy on launch and very maneuverable. While being BVR missiles MICAs are still very maneuverable and thus capable of being used from quite close in all the way to BVR distances.
All Russian fighters are coming toward Finnish mainland from S to SW orientation, with other Russian fighters beyond border making moves so that DCA fighters to the east will not be able to help out in Archipelago sea. Finns try to maneuver into position to get launches toward transports, and thus spread their formation to more loose one. Russians on the other hand will try to screen their transports so that para drop can be successfully accomplished. The aerial battle will be over under 10 minutes. Rafales extremely good RBE 2 radar and , missiles (Meteor 200km at altitude vs 110 km for R-77-1 vs 60km for MICA ) and SPECTRE EW equipment will see that they will emerge victorious from the fray against kinematically superior Suhois.
Rafales get to launch at 11.21 pretty much as soon as they get airborne from Pirkkala AFB, and targets at about 150 km, at that range and against ground clutter Suhois will not be able to pick up the fourship when SPECTRES are deteriorating IRBIS radar performance. Even though RAFALES could shoot all their METEORS at once, that might not be wise as that would cut down the availability of missile in end game. Finns need to cut swathe closer to be able to get a shot against the transports as force Russians to yield space to Finns.
Finns launch first salvo at 1121. This will be 8 Meteor missiles. Which will fly at about 4 mach towards Suhois doing about 1 mach towards them. This combines to about 100 km per minute closing speed. This gives missiles about 80 seconds of flight time. Range is so long that Suhois will likely miss the launches and guidance for missiles in route. Rafales will continue to follow the missiles to get a shot on transports. With this kind of parasitic drag due stores, it is probable that Rafales cannot quite supercruise.
First salvo of 8 Meteors score hits on Suhois over the sea. (Because of one way dataling between Meteors and Rafales, I rate the kill probability a bit lower as 50%. I have not read on any source that this would change with Rafale FR 4). Three Suhois drop into the sea below between Houtskari and Kumlinge from fourship that is vectoring towards Kustavi and one from fourship flying between Nauvo and Kemiönsaari.
1123 hours. situation
Nevertheless in about 80 km distance Russians’ SU-35 Irbis radars start to burn through the jamming and they get to launch too. That is however too little too late, as Meteors are getting within striking distance about that time. At 11.22,20 approximately, Russian don’t even necessarily know they have been fired upon until Meteors come in range. Russians are either forced to maneuver to make missiles miss, which may well be futile, or try to jam the missile and get own launches. Russians lose 5 planes in first exchange. But as they have had to launch from extreme range Finns avoid the salvo quite handily with Spectre system and chaff and flares.
Rafales launch second volley of 8 missiles at four transports over Mainland Åland and fighter between the Finns and the transports. Due the range and in route course updating for missiles it is possible to divert missiles against three fighters flying over Kaarina area as well. Flight time against last remaining fighter in between Houtskari and Iniö is around 60 seconds. Suhoi 35 sees the Rafales and shoots 8 of its 12 missiles. four IR and four Radar. Unfortunately the fighter is hit before it has a chance to guide its missiles to targets and thus Rafales have no problems maneuvering so that they are not picked up in missiles radars that activate around 20 km out of target. Flight time to transports is about 80 seconds and as they are for all practical purposes immobile targets all four are splashed. Also one Suhoi is downed from three planes flying near Kaarina.
at 1123 Finns split up as two pairs to get shooting angles on remaining Suhois in southern Finland. All the Meteors are gone but MICAs can see the situation through. Rafales and Suhois get to launch at about the same time, and as range is under 50km all missiles are within very effective range. first Rafale pair flying toward Masku fire three MICAS at two fighters nearing Kaarina. Suhois launch salvo of four missiles. Rafales have still the edge as they have AESA radars and suhois have PESA radars, so Rafale SPECTRA has a good chance of fooling the missile guidance and may be able to escape the bad situation. Rafales score two hits and and one R-77 detonates so close to Rafale 2 that Rafale is damaged and needs to find emergency landing spot.
Rafales have split up. More missile exchange ensues.
Other pair vectoring towards Koski launches six MICAS against four Suhois there. Four Suhois launch 4 R-77 in return. there are three IR and three Radar guided MICAs on way. number four Rafale is hit and destroyed. and Rafales score three hits on Suhois.
Rafale #3 turns toward Loimaa and tries to escape and Rafale #1 turn toward remaining Suhoi. and fires two out of its remaining three missiles at Suhoi and down it from about 20 km out.
The westernmost fourship of Suhois decides to call it a day and turn back south to avoid Rafales. As there are not missiles with sufficient range to do anything about it Finns get slowly back into formation and start to scan the seas for targets.
Finns fly over the Åland mainland and scan the sea for possible targets. Fighters pick up three fast moving targets heading towards islands. Targets are three Zubr class Air cushioned landing craft. Two Rafales launch four EXOCET missiles towards the craft. The missiles are picked up by the Zubrs AD radars and landing craft start evasive maneuvering and prepare to use CIVS system, against the missiles. Saturation attack is successful and manages to burn through the CIWS and AA missile defense and hits are scored on the Zubrs with one sinking. another one limps along and one gets to go into Mainland Åland unharmed.