French Navy Rafale fighter forced to land in Malta after refueling mishap

U.S. Air Force photo

A Dassault Rafale Marine fighter of the French Navy was forced to land at Malta International Airport (MLA) following a refueling mishap. 

The aircraft was operating from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The carrier recently deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for Mission Clemenceau 22, whose main goal is to support counterterrorism in the Middle East. It will also provide “reassurance and situation assessment measures” in the Black Sea, currently the stage of tensions between Ukraine and Russia. 

Late on February 6, 2022, the Rafale M broke the nozzle of its probe during mid-air refueling, preventing it from receiving the propellant it needed to return to the carrier, according to local defense media Horizon Malta. The jet diverted to Malta International Airport (MLA). 

The incident was confirmed to AeroTime by the French Navy, which added that the Rafale was recovered shortly after its diversion. An NH-90 Caiman Marine helicopter was sent from the Charles de Gaulle to the airport, transporting a technical team capable of repairing and refueling the fighter. The two aircraft were then able to return to their carrier later in the night.

The Marine Nationale operates a total fleet of 42 carrier-capable Rafale Marine F3R fighters. 20 of which, belonging to the 12F and 17F squadrons, are currently stationed on the Charles de Gaulle. The aircraft affected, number 41, was delivered in April 2016. 

The carrier also houses one Caiman helicopter, two Dauphin/Panther helicopters, and two E-2C Hawkeye AWACS aircraft. 


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