The Ministry of the Armed Forces judges the principle of Rafale useless Electronic Warfare

In June 2021, the UDI deputy for Seine Saint-Denis and member of the Defense committee of the National Assembly had questioned, based on an article published on Meta-Defense, the Ministry of the Armed Forces on the relevance of developing a version of Rafale dedicated to electronic warfare missions, like what was done, for example, with the US Navy's E/A-18G Growler based on the F/A-18F Super Hornet. According to the arguments put forward, a Rafale “specialized” in this electronic warfare mission, would increase the capabilities of the French air forces to suppress opposing anti-aircraft defenses, and thus guarantee, over time, the capabilities of the French air and naval forces to operate over a highly contested area. The Ministry of the Armed Forces has published an answer to this question which, although not surprising as to its purpose, poses real questions about the way in which it envisages the employment of the French Armies in the years to come.

Let us quickly recall what was involved in this file. Faced with the rise in the anti-aircraft defense capabilities of major adversaries such as Russia, it seemed appropriate to simultaneously develop an airborne cyber jamming and warfare pod, an anti-radiation munition intended to eliminate opposing radars, and possibly modify a cell Rafale to make a dedicated version, like the American Growler or the Chinese J-16D, so as to gain the upper hand over the adversary in the electromagnetic and cyber spectrum in a given airspace. This approach made it possible not only to increase the protection of the aircraft itself, but also that of the other allied aircraft flying around it and, if necessary, to significantly undermine the adversary's resources.

EA18G Growler Us Navy Military Alliances | Defense Analysis | Fighter jets
The US Navy's E / A-18G Growler is the US Navy's specialized electronic / cyber warfare device, and the removal of adversary air defenses

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Ministry of the Armed Forces considers that the development of such a device is not necessary. To justify this lack of need, however, it presents very unconvincing arguments, including the fact that in its future versions, the Rafale will be much more interconnected, and that they will have increased means of self-protection. In addition, the Ministry specifies that the intervention of the French armies should only be considered in the future within a framework of coalition and cooperation. Finally, the interconnection of opposing defense systems will make them much more resilient, requiring multiple responses to weaken their capabilities. And to conclude that these different arguments would make it possible to rule out the need for a device dedicated to electronic warfare missions, which, let's admit, is enough to leave you speechless.

Indeed, each of the arguments taken individually goes precisely in the opposite direction to the conclusion put forward. So, if the Rafale will actually have self-protection capabilities reinforced by the SPECTRA update, it is absurd to imagine that this system will be able to cope, on its own, with a modern integrated multi-layer anti-aircraft defense like the one implemented implemented by Russia, which is precisely designed to saturate these types of systems. Therefore, unless the threat itself is reduced, it will be impossible for a Rafale to evolve in such an environment, let alone allow other devices to do so. However, what could be more effective for this than a device equipped with powerful mixed electronic and cyber warfare jammers, and anti-radiation munitions? This is precisely the reason which led the US Navy (EA18G), but also the Chinese air and naval forces (J-16D and J-15D), to develop aircraft dedicated to this mission, and the other forces airlines to favor stealth aircraft in order to reduce the risk for planes and their crews.

Shenyang J 16D Military Alliances | Defense Analysis | Fighter jets
The J-16D is the Chinese counterpart of the American Growler

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