Recently the French Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) – high speed train) inaugurated a new scheduled route running between Brittany and Pays de la Loire in western France, the train was “escorted” by French Air Force aircraft. One Dassault / Dornier Alpha Jet and one Dassault Rafale C flew over the train while it was running at 320 kilometers per hour (199 mile per hour or 173 knots). The TGV is France’s intercity high-speed rail service and has been in operation since 1981. The trains were originally designed to be powered by gas turbine engines but the 1973 oil crisis drove a change to electric power. Note that the Rafale is capable of flying at Mach 1.1 (1,390 kilometers per hour or 864 miles per hour / 750 knots) at the altitude at which it’s flying in the video. The train is seriously hauling for a train, but that jet is crawling along with their flaps deployed!
The Dassault / Dornier Alpha Jet has been in service with the French Air Force since 1978. Used primarily as a trainer, Alpha Jets have also been adapted for light attack and reconnaissance work. The jet has been used by 14 nations and is still operational with 12 of them. Because of the different avionics and radars in use by the different countries operating them, Alpha Jets have distinctive nose configurations. The German versions are equipped with an elongated pointed nose, whereas the other Alpha Jets employ a shorter rounded off nose. The Patrouille de France, the French precision aerobatics demonstration team, flies Alpha Jets. Due to the Alpha Jet’s advancing age potential replacement aircraft such as the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, Aero L-39 Albatros, Beechcraft T-6 Texan II and the Pilatus PC-21 are being evaluated.
The Dassault Rafale began service with the French Air Force several years after the naval variant. The Rafale has been used since 2007 in combat by the French Air Force in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Mali, and Libya. More recently Armée de l’aire Rafales have been employed against Islamic State militants. Based at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, the French Rafales at first used their avionics suites to identify targets for US airstrikes. Later the Rafales began flying strike missions of their own with successful results.
Rafales are operated exclusively by France today, but Eqypt, India, and Qatar have ordered them and Canada, Finland, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates are taking a look. Previous unsuccessful sales to Brazil, Singapore, Switzerland, Kuwait, South Korea, The United Kingdom (Royal Navy), Morocco, and Oman have been filled with Eurofighter Typhoons or Saab JAS 39 Gripens for the most part.