An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming and recovering aircraft. It is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore increase the time of availability on the combat zone.
There is no single definition of an "aircraft carrier", modern navies use several variants of the type. These variants are sometimes categorized as sub-types of aircraft carriers, sometimes as distinct types of naval aviation-capable ships. Aircraft carriers may be classified according to the type of aircraft they carry and their operational assignments. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, RN, former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, has said, "To put it countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers." Henry Kissinger, while United States Secretary of State said: "An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy". As of April 2019, there are 41 active aircraft carriers in the world operated by thirteen navies; the United States Navy has 11 large nuclear-powered fleet carriers—carrying around 80 fighter jets each—the largest carriers in the world. As well as the aircraft carrier fleet, the U. S. Navy has nine amphibious assault ships used for helicopters, although these carry up to 20 vertical or short take-off and landing fighter jets and are similar in size to medium-sized fleet carriers.
China, India and the UK each operate a single large/medium-size carrier, with capacity from 30 to 60 fighter jets. Italy operates two light fleet carriers and Spain operates one. Helicopter carriers are operated by Japan, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Thailand. Future aircraft carriers are under construction or in planning by Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, the United States. Amphibious assault ship Anti-submarine warfare carrier Balloon carrier and balloon tenders Escort carrier Fleet carrier Flight deck cruiser Helicopter carrier Light aircraft carrier Sea Control Ship Seaplane tender and seaplane carriers Aircraft cruiser A fleet carrier is intended to operate with the main fleet and provides an offensive capability; these are the largest carriers capable of fast speeds. By comparison, escort carriers were developed to provide defense for convoys of ships, they were slower with lower numbers of aircraft carried. Most were built from mercantile hulls or, in the case of merchant aircraft carriers, were bulk cargo ships with a flight deck added on top.
Light aircraft carriers were fast enough to operate with the main fleet but of smaller size with reduced aircraft capacity. The Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Kusnetsov was termed a heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser; this was a legal construct to avoid the limitations of the Montreux Convention preventing'aircraft carriers' transiting the Turkish Straits between the Soviet Black Sea bases and the Mediterranean. These ships, while sized in the range of large fleet carriers, were designed to deploy alone or with escorts. In addition to supporting fighter aircraft and helicopters, they provide both strong defensive weaponry and heavy offensive missiles equivalent to a guided missile cruiser. Aircraft carriers today are divided into the following four categories based on the way that aircraft take off and land: Catapult-assisted take-off barrier arrested-recovery: these carriers carry the largest and most armed aircraft, although smaller CATOBAR carriers may have other limitations. All CATOBAR carriers in service today are nuclear powered.
Two nations operate carriers of this type: ten Nimitz class and one Gerald R. Ford class fleet carriers by the United States, one medium-sized carrier by France, for a world total of twelve in service. Short take-off but arrested-recovery: these carriers are limited to carrying lighter fixed-wing aircraft with more limited payloads. STOBAR carrier air wings, such as the Sukhoi Su-33 and future Mikoyan MiG-29K wings of Admiral Kuznetsov are geared towards air superiority and fleet defense roles rather than strike/power projection tasks, which require heavier payloads. Today China and Russia each operate one carrier of this type – a total of three in service currently. Short take-off vertical-landing: limited to carrying STOVL aircraft. STOVL aircraft, such as the Harrier Jump Jet family and Yakovlev Yak-38 have limited payloads, lower perfor
Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet; the Super Hornet has an internal 20 mm M61 rotary cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. Additional fuel can be carried in up to five external fuel tanks and the aircraft can be configured as an airborne tanker by adding an external air refueling system. Designed and produced by McDonnell Douglas, the Super Hornet first flew in 1995. Low-rate production began in early 1997 with full-rate production starting in September 1997, after the merger of McDonnell Douglas and Boeing the previous month; the Super Hornet entered service with the United States Navy in 1999, replacing the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, retired in 2006. The Royal Australian Air Force, which has operated the F/A-18A as its main fighter since 1984, ordered the F/A-18F in 2007 to replace its aging F-111C fleet.
RAAF Super Hornets entered service in December 2010. The Super Hornet is an evolutionary redesign of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet; the Super Hornet's unique wing and tail configuration can be traced back to an internal Northrop project P-530, c. 1965. Flying as the Northrop YF-17 "Cobra", it competed in the United States Air Force's Lightweight Fighter program to produce a smaller and simpler fighter to complement the larger McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle; the Navy directed that the YF-17 be redesigned into the larger F/A-18 Hornet to meet a requirement for a multi-role fighter to complement the larger and more expensive Grumman F-14 Tomcat serving in fleet defense interceptor and air superiority roles. The Hornet proved to be limited in combat radius; the concept of an enlarged Hornet was first proposed in the 1980s, marketed by McDonnell Douglas as Hornet 2000. The Hornet 2000 concept was an advanced F/A-18 with a larger wing and a longer fuselage to carry more fuel and more powerful engines.
The end of the Cold War led to a period of considerable restructuring. At the same time, U. S. Naval Aviation faced a number of problems; the McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II was canceled in 1991 after the program ran into serious problems. The Navy considered updating an existing design as a more attractive approach to a clean-sheet program; as an alternative to the A-12, McDonnell Douglas proposed the "Super Hornet", an improvement of the successful previous F/A-18 models, which could serve as an alternate replacement for the A-6 Intruder. The next-generation Hornet design proved more attractive than Grumman's Quick Strike upgrade to the F-14 Tomcat, regarded as an insufficient technological leap over existing F-14s. At the time, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the Navy's primary air superiority fighter and fleet defense interceptor. Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney described the F-14 as 1960s technology, drastically cut back F-14D procurement in 1989 before cancelling production altogether in 1991, in favor of the updated F/A-18E/F.
The decision to replace the Tomcat with an all-Hornet Carrier Air Wing was controversial. In 1992, the Navy canceled the Navy Advanced Tactical Fighter, which would have been a navalized variant of the Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor; as a cheaper alternative to NATF, Grumman proposed substantial improvements to the F-14 beyond Quick Strike, but Congress rejected them as too costly and reaffirmed its commitment to the less expensive F/A-18E/F. The Super Hornet was first ordered by the U. S. Navy in 1992; the Navy retained the F/A-18 designation to help sell the program to Congress as a low-risk "derivative", though the Super Hornet is a new aircraft. The Hornet and Super Hornet share many characteristics, including avionics, ejection seats, armament, mission computer software, maintenance/operating procedures; the initial F/A-18E/F retained most of the avionics systems from the F/A-18C/D's configuration at the time. The design would be expanded in the Super Hornet with an empty weight greater than the F-15C.
The Super Hornet first flew on 29 November 1995. Initial production on the F/A-18E/F began in 1995. Flight testing started in 1996 with the F/A-18E/F's first carrier landing in 1997. Low-rate production began in March 1997 with full production beginning in September 1997. Testing continued through 1999, finishing with aerial refueling demonstrations. Testing involved 3,100 test flights covering 4,600 flight hours; the Super Hornet underwent U. S. Navy operational tests and evaluations in 1999, was approved in February 2000. With the retirement of the F-14 in 2006, all of the Navy's combat jets have been Hornet variants until the F-35C Lightning II enters service; the F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F two-seat aircraft took the place of the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, Lockheed S-3 Viking, KA-6D aircraft. An electronic warfare variant, the EA-18G Growler, replaces the EA-6B Prowler; the Navy calls this reduction in aircraft types a "neck-down". During the Vietnam War era, the Super Hornet's roles were performed by a combination of the A-1/A-4/A-7, A-6, F-8/F-4, RA-5C, KA-3
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U. S. allies or partner nations. With the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches, it has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force. The U. S. Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, established during the American Revolutionary War and was disbanded as a separate entity shortly thereafter.
The U. S. Navy played a major role in the American Civil War by blockading the Confederacy and seizing control of its rivers, it played the central role in the World War II defeat of Imperial Japan. The US Navy emerged from World War II as the most powerful navy in the world; the 21st century U. S. Navy maintains a sizable global presence, deploying in strength in such areas as the Western Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, it is a blue-water navy with the ability to project force onto the littoral regions of the world, engage in forward deployments during peacetime and respond to regional crises, making it a frequent actor in U. S. foreign and military policy. The Navy is administratively managed by the Department of the Navy, headed by the civilian Secretary of the Navy; the Department of the Navy is itself a division of the Department of Defense, headed by the Secretary of Defense. The Chief of Naval Operations is the most senior naval officer serving in the Department of the Navy.
The mission of the Navy is to maintain and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas. The U. S. Navy is a seaborne branch of the military of the United States; the Navy's three primary areas of responsibility: The preparation of naval forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war. The maintenance of naval aviation, including land-based naval aviation, air transport essential for naval operations, all air weapons and air techniques involved in the operations and activities of the Navy; the development of aircraft, tactics, technique and equipment of naval combat and service elements. U. S. Navy training manuals state that the mission of the U. S. Armed Forces is "to be prepared to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations in support of the national interest." As part of that establishment, the U. S. Navy's functions comprise sea control, power projection and nuclear deterrence, in addition to "sealift" duties, it follows as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, with it, everything honorable and glorious.
Naval power... is the natural defense of the United States The Navy was rooted in the colonial seafaring tradition, which produced a large community of sailors and shipbuilders. In the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, Massachusetts had its own Massachusetts Naval Militia; the rationale for establishing a national navy was debated in the Second Continental Congress. Supporters argued that a navy would protect shipping, defend the coast, make it easier to seek out support from foreign countries. Detractors countered that challenging the British Royal Navy the world's preeminent naval power, was a foolish undertaking. Commander in Chief George Washington resolved the debate when he commissioned the ocean-going schooner USS Hannah to interdict British merchant ships and reported the captures to the Congress. On 13 October 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the purchase of two vessels to be armed for a cruise against British merchant ships. S. Navy; the Continental Navy achieved mixed results.
In August 1785, after the Revolutionary War had drawn to a close, Congress had sold Alliance, the last ship remaining in the Continental Navy due to a lack of funds to maintain the ship or support a navy. In 1972, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, authorized the Navy to celebrate its birthday on 13 October to honor the establishment of the Continental Navy in 1775; the United States was without a navy for nearly a decade, a state of affairs that exposed U. S. maritime merchant ships to a series of attacks by the Barbary pirates. The sole armed maritime presence between 1790 and the launching of the U. S. Navy's first warships in 1797 was the U. S. Revenue-Marine, the primary predecessor of the U. S. Coast Guard. Although the USRCS conducted operations against the pirates, their depredations far outstripped its abilities and Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794 that established a permanent standing navy on 27 March 1794; the Naval Act ordered the construction and manning of six frigates and, by October 1797, the first three were brought into service: USS United States, USS Constellation, USS Constitution.
Due to his strong posture on having a strong standing Navy during this period, John Adams is "often called the father of the American Navy". In 1798–99 the Navy was involved in an undeclared Quasi-War with France. From 18
Battle of Taranto
The Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War between British naval forces, under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Italian naval forces, under Admiral Inigo Campioni. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, employing 21 obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean Sea; the attack struck the battle fleet of the Regia Marina at anchor in the harbour of Taranto, using aerial torpedoes despite the shallowness of the water. The success of this attack augured the ascendancy of naval aviation over the big guns of battleships. According to Admiral Cunningham, "Taranto, the night of 11–12 November 1940, should be remembered for as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon." Long before the First World War, the Italian Regia Marina's First Squadron was based at Taranto, a port-city on Italy's south-east coast.
In that period, the British Royal Navy developed plans for countering the power of the Regia Marina. Blunting the power of any adversary in the Mediterranean Sea was an ongoing exercise. Plans for the capture of the port at Taranto were considered as early as the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. In 1940–41, Italian Army operations in North Africa, based in Libya, required a supply line from Italy; the British Army's North African Campaign, based in Egypt, suffered from much greater supply difficulties. Supply convoys to Egypt had to either cross the Mediterranean via Gibraltar and Malta near the coast of Sicily, or steam around the Cape of Good Hope, up the east coast of Africa, through the Suez Canal to reach Alexandria; the latter was a long and slow route, the Italian fleet was in an excellent position to interdict British supplies and reinforcements using the direct route through the Mediterranean. Following the concept of a fleet in being, the Italians kept their warships in harbour and were unwilling to seek battle with the Royal Navy on their own because any ship lost bigger than a destroyer could not be replaced.
The Italian fleet at Taranto was powerful: six battleships, seven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and eight destroyers. This made the threat of a sortie against British shipping a serious problem. During the Munich Crisis of 1938, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, was concerned about the survival of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in the face of Italian opposition in the Mediterranean, ordered his staff to re-examine all plans for attacking Taranto, he was advised by Lumley Lyster, the captain of Glorious, that her Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers were capable of a night attack. Indeed, the Fleet Air Arm was the only naval aviation arm with such a capability. Pound ordered training to begin. Security was kept so tight. Just a month before the war began, Pound advised his replacement, Admiral Andrew Cunningham, to consider the possibility; this came to be known as Operation Judgment. The fall of France and the consequent loss of the French fleet in the Mediterranean made redress essential.
The older carrier, HMS Eagle, on Cunningham's strength, was ideal, possessing a experienced air group composed of the obsolescent Swordfish aircraft. Three Sea Gladiator fighters were added for the operation. Firm plans were drawn up after the Italian Army halted at Sidi Barrani, which freed up the British Mediterranean Fleet. Operation Judgment was just a small part of the overarching Operation MB8, it was scheduled to take place on 21 October 1940, Trafalgar Day, but a fire in an auxiliary fuel tank of one Swordfish led to a delay. 60 imp gal auxiliary tanks were fitted in the observer’s position on torpedo bombers - the observer taking the air gunner's position - to extend the operating range of the aircraft enough to reach Taranto.) This minor fire spread into something more serious. Eagle suffered a breakdown in her fuel system, so she was eliminated; when the brand-new carrier HMS Illustrious, based at Alexandria, became available in the Mediterranean, she took on board five Swordfish from Eagle and launched the strike alone.
The complete naval task force—commanded by Rear Admiral Lyster, who had originated the plan of attack on Taranto—consisted of Illustrious, the heavy cruisers HMS Berwick and York, the light cruisers HMS Gloucester and Glasgow, the destroyers HMS Hyperion, Ilex and Havelock. The 24 attack Swordfish came from 813, 815, 819, 824 Naval Air Squadrons; the small number of attacking warplanes raised concern that Judgment would only alert and enrage the Italian Navy without achieving any significant results. Illustrious had Fairey Fulmar fighters of 806 Naval Air Squadron aboard to provide air cover for the task force, with radar and fighter control systems. Half of the Swordfish were armed with torpedoes as the primary strike aircraft, with the other half carrying aerial bombs and flares to carry out diversions; these torpedoes were fitted with Duplex magnetic/contact exploders, which were sensitive to rough seas, as the attacks on the German battleship Bismarck showed. There were worries the torpedoes would bottom out in the harbour after being dropped.
The loss rate for the bombers was expected to be fifty percent. Several reconnaissance flights by Martin Marylands of the RAF's No. 431 General Reconnaissance Flight flying from Malta confirmed the location of the Italian fleet. These flights produced photos on which the intelligence officer of Illustr
Airborne early warning and control
An airborne early warning and control system is an airborne radar picket system designed to detect aircraft and vehicles at long ranges and perform command and control of the battlespace in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes. AEW&C units are used to carry out surveillance, including over ground targets and perform C2BM functions similar to an Air Traffic Controller given military command over other forces; when used at altitude, the radar on the aircraft allows the operators to detect and track targets and distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft much farther away than a similar ground-based radar. Like a ground-based radar, it can be detected by opposing forces, but because of its mobility, it is much less vulnerable to counter-attack. AEW&C aircraft are used for both defensive and offensive air operations, are to the NATO and US forces trained or integrated Air Forces what the combat information center is to a US Navy warship, plus a mobile and powerful radar platform.
The system is used offensively to direct fighters to their target locations, defensively, directing counterattacks on enemy forces, both air and ground. So useful is the advantage of command and control from a high altitude, the United States Navy operates Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft off its Supercarriers to augment and protect its carrier Command Information Centers; the designation airborne early warning was used for earlier similar aircraft, such as the Fairey Gannet AEW.3 and Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star, continues to be used by the RAF for its Sentry AEW1, while AEW&C emphasizes the command and control capabilities that may not be present on smaller or simpler radar picket aircraft. AWACS is the name of the specific system installed in the E-3 and Japanese Boeing E-767 AEW&C airframes, but is used as a general synonym for AEW&C. Modern AEW&C systems can detect aircraft from up to 400 km away, well out of range of most surface-to-air missiles. One AEW&C aircraft flying at 9,000 m can cover an area of 312,000 km2.
Three such aircraft in overlapping orbits can cover the whole of Central Europe. AEW&C systems communicate with friendly aircraft, vectoring fighters towards bogeys, providing data on threats and targets, help extend their sensor range and make offensive aircraft more difficult to track, since they no longer need to keep their own radar active to detect threats. After having developed Chain Home--the first ground-based early-warning radar detection system--in the 1930s, the British developed a radar set that could be carried on an aircraft for what they termed "Air Controlled Interception"; the intention was to cover the North West approaches where German long range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor aircraft were threatening shipping. A Vickers Wellington bomber was fitted with a rotating antenna array, it was tested for use against aerial targets and for possible use against German E boats. Another radar equipped Wellington with a different installation was used to direct Bristol Beaufighters toward Heinkel He 111s, which were air-launching V-1 flying bombs.
In February 1944, the U. S. Navy ordered the development of a radar system that could be carried aloft in an aircraft under Project Cadillac. A prototype system was flown in August on a modified TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. Tests proved successful, with the system being able to detect low flying formations at a range in excess of 100 miles; the U. S. Navy ordered production of the TBM-3W, the first production AEW aircraft to enter service. TBM-3Ws fitted with the AN/APS-20 radar entered service in March 1945, with some 36–40 being constructed; the Lockheed WV and EC-121 Warning Star, which first flew in 1949 served with both the US Air Force and US Navy and provided the main AEW coverage for US forces during the Vietnam war. It was to remain operational until replaced with its intended successor. Developed in parallel, N-class blimps were used as AEW aircraft, filling in gaps in radar coverage for the continental US, their tremendous endurance of over 200 hours being a major asset in an AEW aircraft, although lighter than air operations were discontinued in 1962 following a crash.
In 1958, the Soviet Tupolev Design Bureau was ordered to design an AEW aircraft. After determining that the projected radar instrumentation wouldn't fit in a Tupolev Tu-95 or a Tupolev Tu-116, the decision was made to use the more capacious Tupolev Tu-114 instead; this solved the problems with cooling and operator space that existed with the narrower Tu-95 and Tu-116 fuselage. To meet the flight range requirements, production examples were fitted with an air-to-air refueling probe; the resulting system, the Tupolev Tu-126, entered service in 1965 with the Soviet Air Forces and remained in service until replaced by the Beriev A-50 in 1984. Many countries have developed their own AEW&C systems, although the Boeing E-3 Sentry and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye are the most common systems worldwide; the E-3 Sentry was built by the Boeing Defense and Space Group and was based on the Boeing 707-320 aircraft. Sixty-five E-3s were built and it is operated by the United States, NATO, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
The specially designed Grumman E-2 Hawkeye entered service in 1965 and has been operated by eight different nations. Over 168 have been produced so far and new versions continue to be developed, making it the most used AEW system. For the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the E-3 technology has been fitted into the Boeing E-767. After World War 2, the United Kingdom de
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions; the Rafale is referred to as an "omnirole" aircraft by Dassault. In the late 1970s, the French Air Force and Navy were seeking to replace and consolidate their current fleets of aircraft. In order to reduce development costs and boost prospective sales, France entered into an arrangement with UK, Germany and Spain to produce an agile multi-purpose fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon. Subsequent disagreements over workshare and differing requirements led to France's pursuit of its own development programme. Dassault built a technology demonstrator which first flew in July 1986 as part of an eight-year flight-test programme, paving the way for the go-ahead of the project; the Rafale is distinct from other European fighters of its era in that it is entirely built by one country, involving most of France's major defence contractors, such as Dassault and Safran.
Many of the aircraft's avionics and features, such as direct voice input, the RBE2 AA active electronically scanned array radar and the optronique secteur frontal infra-red search and track sensor, were domestically developed and produced for the Rafale programme. Scheduled to enter service in 1996, the Rafale suffered significant delays due to post-Cold War budget cuts and changes in priorities; the aircraft is available in three main variants: Rafale C single-seat land-based version, Rafale B twin-seat land-based version, Rafale M single-seat carrier-based version. Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy; the Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries, was selected for purchase by the Indian Air Force, the Egyptian Air Force, the Qatar Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Mali and Syria. Several upgrades to the weapons and avionics of the Rafale are planned to be introduced by 2018.
In the mid-1970s, both the French Air Force and Navy had requirements for a new generation of fighters to replace those in or about to enter service. Because their requirements were similar, to reduce cost, both departments issued a common request for proposal. In 1975, the French Ministry of Aviation initiated studies for a new aircraft to complement the upcoming and smaller Dassault Mirage 2000, with each aircraft optimised for differing roles. In 1979, the French company Dassault joined the MBB/BAe "European Collaborative Fighter" project, renamed the "European Combat Aircraft"; the French company contributed the aerodynamic layout of a prospective twin-engine, single-seat fighter. In 1983, the "Future European Fighter Aircraft" programme was initiated, bringing together Italy, West Germany and the United Kingdom to jointly develop a new fighter, although the latter three had their own aircraft developments. A number of factors led to the eventual split between the other four countries. Around 1984 France reiterated its requirement for a carrier-capable version and demanded a leading role.
It insisted on a swing-role fighter, lighter than the design favoured by the other four nations. West Germany, the UK and Italy established a new EFA programme. In Turin on 2 August 1985, West Germany, the UK and Italy agreed to go ahead with the Eurofighter, confirmed that France, along with Spain, had chosen not to proceed as a member of the project. Despite pressure from France, Spain rejoined the Eurofighter project in early September 1985; the four-nation project resulted in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon. In France, the government proceeded with its own programme; the French Ministry of Defence required an aircraft capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground, all-day and adverse weather operations. Unlike other contemporary European fighter projects that required some level of international collaboration and cost-sharing, France was the sole developer of the Rafale's airframe, propulsion system and armament, as such the aircraft was to replace a multitude of aircraft in the French Armed Forces.
The Rafale would perform roles filled by an assortment of specialised platforms, including the Jaguar, Mirage F1C/CR/CT, Mirage 2000C/-5/N in the Armée de l'air, the F-8P Crusader, Étendard IVP/M and Super Étendard in the Aéronavale. During October–December 1978, prior to France's joining of the ECA, Dassault received contracts for the development of project ACT 92; the following year, the National Office for Aviation Studies and Research began studying the possible configurations of the new fighter under the codename Rapace. By March 1980, the number of configurations had been narrowed down to four, two of which had a combination of canards, delta wings and a single vertical tail-fin. In October 1982, the French Ministry of Defence announced that Dassault would build a technology demonstrator named Avion de Combat expérimental, in short ACX. France wanted to collaborate with West Germany and the UK on the project, but was prepared to build the ACX by itself. In 1984, the government decided to proceed with a combat variant of the ACX due to the co