Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks : King of Bahrain, General Petraeus and Rafale Technology

In one of the US diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks yeasterday the Rafale is qualidied of "yesterday technology" by king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

If the opinion of the gulf state king about the Rafale is of little relevance, the context of his sentense, however, is quite interesting :

[...]"King Hamad asked General Petraeus for his help in encouraging US aircraft manufacturers to participate in the inaugural Bahrain Air Show, scheduled for January 2010,"
"He said that France was pushing the Rafale and would be there in force although he agreed with Petraeus that the French fighter was yesterday's technology"[...]

The very interesting outcome of this cable is not what King Hamad said about the Rafale (what does he know about military aerospace anyway ?) but the fact that he is actually using the French plane as a mean of pressure on the US General Petraeus to get more US aircrafts at his airshow.

So the question is : why King Hamad has chosen the Rafale to pressure US authorities rather than another European or Russian fighter jets ?
Well, simply because the Rafale technology is the only one capable of annoying a US General ... :)

Also read :  Bharain officially denies wikileaks cable on Rafale

Rafale M18 crash update 2

It has been confirmed by several serious sources : the Rafale M18 crashed last sunday, because it ran out of gas !
How is that possible ?  Well the inquiry will tell, but it might have been the result of a gage failure or misinterpretation. A system failure might had hapenned during or just after the inflight refueling at the beginning of the mission forcing the Rafale to return to the aircraft carrier for an emergency landing. But the fuel tanks of the M18 would had empty before the pilot could reach the CdG...

Source : http://www.marianne2.fr/blogsecretdefense/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rafale pictures of the day : M18

Some nice shots of the Rafale M18

Rafale M18 at the Ferte Alais 2009 Airshow ©F. Vandentorren

Rafale M18 crash update

Rafale M18 on the CVN-71 ©US Navy - 2008
The Rafale M F3 which crashed 100km off the pakistani cost yesterday was the M18 delivered in 2008 to the french Navy.
Apparently, the pilot was very experienced on the type with more than 2000 flight hours and a participation to the last Aghanistan campaign in 2007..

The wreckage of the plane are laying at a depth of more than 2500 m.
The first rumors tell that the crash could have been provoked by a fuel management problem or mistake.

For the record, the M18 was among the 6 Rafale M F2 which took part in the JTFEX exercice with the US Navy in June and July 2008. During the exercice, it was integrated to the carrier air wing 7 on board the CVN-71 Theodore Roosevelt from july, 17th to july, 23rd.
As such, it is one of the very rare french fighter jet which had the opportunity to be landed by night on a US super carrier.

It was also the Rafale that made the Navy demonstration at the "Ferté Alais" show in May 2009.

sources :

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crash of a Rafale M, the pilot is safe

Dauphin during a rescue exercice - ©Antoine Grondeau 2007
The defense journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet has revealed, on his blog Secret Defense, that a Rafale M of the CdG has crashed today, 100 km off the cost of Pakistan.
The Rafale would have had a problem during its transit to its patrol zone, forcing the pilot to go back to the CdG. unfortunately, he was not able to land and  had to eject near the aircraft carrier. He has been picked up alive by the "Pedro" safety helicopter of the board (An Alouette III or a Dauphin). The exact cause(s) of the crash are not known yet.

This is  the 3rd crash of a Rafale M since the entry into service of the type in 2001. Last September 2009, 2 Rafale M (M22 and M25) had been lost due to a mid air collision during a standard F3 qualification mission.
It is also worth noting that this is the first Rafale crash during a war mission.

The french navy ordered 60 Rafale M.
  • 31 has been delivered
  • 3 has been lost (incliding today's crash)
  • 10 (Rafale M2 to M10) of the early standard F1 are in storage waiting to be retrofited
  • 1 (rafale M1) is being used by Dassault for flight tests
  • 1 (Rafale M31) is at the CEPA (French Navy trial center)
  • 1 (Rafale M29) is used for pilots training at the 02.092 squadron
  • 15 are part of the 12F squadron (9 of which are currently on the CdG)
 official source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    US admiral Mark Guadagnini visits the CdG

    US Navy admiral Guadagnini in a Rafale M cockpit - ©MN
    Yesterday, noverber 25th, Admiral Mark Guadagnini, commander of the US carrier strike group 9 led by the CVN-72 Abraham Lincoln, was welcome onboard CVN R-91 Charles de Gaulle by the french admiral Jean-Louis Kerignard, commander of the Task Force 473.

    Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/

    Agapanthe 2010 : first pictures of CdG deck

    GBU-12 in front of Rafale M19 and M20 - ©MN
    The first pictures of the Agapanthe 2010 show that the typical Rafale M load for this tour is 4 GBU-12 and 2 RPL741 tanks (2x2000L), as well as 2 Mica IR. During the previous Afghanistan campaings, the Rafale M were only carrying RPL 701 tanks (1250L)
    Weapon specialists load GBU on Rafale M - ©MN

    For their first mission, on November 26th, the french Rafale and Super Etendard, have watch over a british ground patrol in the south of Afghanistan, supported a medevac and been assigned to a CAS alert

    Rafale M19 loaded with 4xGBU-12 and 2x2000L tanks - ©MN
    Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/
    Rafale M17 and SEM41ready for launch - ©MN

    Rafale M21 in buddy refueling config - ©MN

    Rafale M19 waiting for the catapult - ©MN

    Rafale M19 loaded with 4xGBU-12 and 2x2000L tanks - ©MN

    Qatar : New fighter in 2012

    The Qatar Emiri Air Force has begun the evaluations of 6 fighter types to replace its 12 Mirage 2000-5. The Gulf state choice is expected before the end of 2012.
    The contenders are :
    • Lockheed Martin F-35
    • Boeing F/A18E and F-15 (SE ?)
    • Eurofighter Typhoon
    • Dassault Rafale
    • Saab Gripen (NG ?)
    First thought to be for 40 planes, the order will most probably be for 24 to 36 jets

    Sources :

    Also read : Qatar race is on

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Ambassy defense representatives visit St Dizier Air Base

    November, 23rd. The embassy defense representatives of Brazil, USA, Germany, Japan, Turkey and Croatia have visited the St Dizier Air base, east of France. they had the opportunity to have a look at all the air base installations including the SAM defense and firemen squadrons as well as the falcon house and the maintenance section. The climax of the visit was the presentation of the Rafale and of the facilities of the "Provence" and "Aquitaine" squadrons

    Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/

    First mission over Afghanistan for the Rafale M F3

    Sem providing laser designation to Rafale M F2 (2007)
    Today, the Rafale and Super Etendard of the CVN Charles de Gaulles has conducted their first war missions as part as the TF-473 in support of NATO Forces fighting the Talibans in Afghanistan.
    Rafale M and Super Etendard above Afghanistan in 2007

    After an intensive CAS training in early November in Djibouti the Carrier group had stop 3 days (11/16 to 11/19) in order to re-supply.

    From now on, it should not stop for the next 7 weeks.

    Sources :

    Cruzex V : final clip

    No comment

    Brazilian pilots in love with the Rafale

    Rafale and mirage 2000-5 flying side by side ©01.002 squadron
    Well at least, that what the french Rafale pilot Captain Romain is telling on his blog :

    From now on, the Brazilians were able to fly on Rafale and their pilots are now, as every pilot who has tested the Rafale, merely in love of a fully omnirole and operational aircraft.

    This was in response to a reader who was worrying about the increasing anti-french attitude of some brazilian media (blogs and newspapers) which are openly lobbying for Saab and which are at the origin of the widely spread rumor telling that the FAB is in favor of the Gripen. 

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    FX-2 : Boeing is playing its last card

    SAO PAULO — Boeing is offering to partner with Brazil's Embraer on a new fighter jet, in an effort to strengthen its bid for a multi-billion-dollar Brazilian defense contract, the US manufacturer said in a report Monday.
    Joseph McAndrew, Boeing's vice president for Europe, Israel and America, told business publication Valor that the firm proposed 10 partnership projects with Brazil's aviation leader, including building a new plant in the country to build parts for Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet.
    Valor reported that Boeing offered Embraer assembly of the F/A-18, as well as manufacture of the nose, wings and tail.
    "Never before has Boeing offered such a broad, clear package of technology transfer dedicated to Brazil," McAndrew told the journal.
    "All elements of the US government that could veto such a transfer signed a pledge saying they will not veto it. Both Congress and the Defense Department," he said.

    guns, guns, guns ! The F/A-18E is in the Rafale gunsight, this time...

    Rafale News comment : Boeing last chance in the FX-2 contest was a victory of Jose Serra (pro-US center right PSDB party) at the presidential elections in October. Fortunately for Dassault, Dilma Rousseff won. This desperate move is more an indication that the fight is over for the Super Hornet in Brazil. The Next round will be for the UAE  market and , this time, we can be sure that the US commercial and political war machine will run at full power to crunch the Rafale hopes...

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    1000 th Mica

    October, 25th, the French weapon agency "DGA" has received the 1000th mica missile (An IR one) on the 1110 ordered for the french forces. the last one should be delivered by MBDA in 2012.

    In addition to those 1000 french Mica, more than 1000 has been exported to foreign Air forces (Qatar, Taiwan, Greece, EAU) and navies (Morocco, Oman).

    The DGA also points out 3 interesting features of the MICA :
    • It can be shot at a target behind the aircraft using third party initial designation through link 16.   
    • It has a internal multi target capability allowing each missile to optimize its detonation point in order to strike several  targets in close formation at once.
    • The IR version can be used as an IRST which can detect incoming enemy missiles in the front sector

    To celebrate the event  we have made a commemorative drawing showing the Rafale with an hypothetical  load of 10 mica (6 EM and 4 IR)  :)
    This very powerfull warload will probably never be cleared because the 2 hardpoints in the center of the fuselage seems to have been definitely discarded for the Mica despite what was demonstrated on the Rafale A, 20 years ago.

    Rafale with a mica on the external wing hardpoint (Bourget 2009)
    However, the 2 external hardpoints of the wings, which are not exploited yet, could soon receive the Mica. As far as we know, the wiring is there, and only the inflight tests remained to be done. For the record, it is mainly the UAE which had been pushing to integrate the Mica on those 2 hardpoints but the French Air Force had also shown some kind of interest for the matter... but as usual it will end up as a budget issue.

    Also read : Mica replacement into question
    Source : French Air Force and DGA

    FX-2 : Jobim still prefers the Rafale

    Brazilian and french pilots discuss after a flight on the Rafale
    The FX-2 contest seems to accelerate and a lot of events have occured last week.

    First, Cruzex V, which has ended Friday, 19th, has allowed the French Air Force to demonstrate the potential of the Rafale in a large scale, intensive exercice. The first rumors from the debriefing rooms seem to indicate that the french fighter would have been quite convincing in the BVR arena. Besides, several Brasilian pilots had the opportunity to fly and evaluate the Rafale during some training missions (picture on the left).
    Several media thought that the FX-2 decision could be revealed at the end of Cruzex, but it has not been the case.

    Saturday 20th, Brasilian defense minister Nelson jobim has met the french economy Minister, Christine Lagarde at Rio de Janeiro. During this meeting jobim has stated, once again, that the french offer for the FX-2 contest was the most interesting concerning tranfer of technology.

    "We don't buy fighters, but a technological package"

    Nelson Jobim salutes french Rafale pilots during Cruzex V VIP day
    Nelson jobim made clear that the main purpose of  the FX-2 project was not only to acquire fighter jets but also to buy industrial knowlege. Inded, Brazil intends to play a major role in the aerospace sector in the future.

    According to him, Lulla and Dilma Rousseff should decide and may reveal their political choice in the next 3 weeks (ie before december, 19th). This announcement will end the FX-2 decision process for good after 2 years of evaluation.

    In a last attempt to jeopardize a final decision in favor of Saab or Dassault, Boeing, whose offer is said to be the weakest on the ToT ground, has openly critized the selection process and beg for the opportunity to propose a new offer. But it is unlikly that the US resquest will be accepted at this stage of the contest as the Brazilian defense Ministry simply declined to comment the Boeing's critics.

    Sources :
    French Air Force

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Beautifull Rafale pictures from Cruzex V

    More pictures on here

    Rafale Pilot patches

    FAB officers having a look at the Rafale Cockpit

    Transit over Africa

    Transit over Africa

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Cruzex V : a 3800 km trip

    Flight to Brazil specs :

    4 Dassault Rafale B (B310, B315, B318, B319) - 01.091 Gascogne squadron
    8 Rafale Pilots
    12 Rafale mechanics
    1 Boeing C-135FR (n° 740) - GRV 00.093 Bretagne squadron
    7 C-135FR  Pilots and flight engineers
    5 C-135FR mechanics

    Take Off Istres Air Base - France

    Istres-Dakar :
    3800 km
    5 hours
    2 air refuelings
    25 T of fuel transfered to the 4 Rafale

    Stop at Dakar - Senegal

    Dakar-Natal :
    3000 Km
    4 hours
    1 air refueling
    15 T of fuel transfered to the 4 Rafale

    Landing at Natal Air Base - Brazil

     6800 km from Istres to natal ©RafaleNews

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Alain Juppé is the new french defense Minister

    Alain juppé ©Medias - P.Taris
    Novenber, 14th, Alain Juppé officially replaces Hervé Morin as the french defense Minister. As far as the Rafale is concerned, we will remember that Mr. Juppé was the prime Minister of President Chirac between 1995 and 1997, a period when the entry into service of the Rafale in the french Air Force was delayed for 4 years, shifting from 2001 to 2005.
    Juppé will have the delicate task to manage 2 major export prospects of the Rafale :
    Brazil where the decision for 36 fighters is expected before the end of the year (and possibly as soon as november, 19th, at the end of the Cruzex 5 exercise taking place in Natal, East of Brazil)
    United Arab Emirates,  where the current negotiations for 60 machines seem very difficult for the Rafale.

    Wikipedia link on Alain Juppé

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Cruzex V pictures

    French Air Force article (in french)
    A new set of pictures of  Cruzex V exercise by the Brazilian Air Force

    Brazilian AMX, French Rafale and US F-16

    The 4 Rafale during their transfer to Brazil

    FX-2 : Dassault settles the transfer of technology offered by France

    Mayor of Sao Bernado, and Eric Trappier - ©Defesanet.com
    11/09 Vice president Of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier has met Luiz Marinho, the mayor of Sao Bernado city,  to state multiple agreements on aerospace cooperation between  the Rafale international consortium and the Brazilian industry and univerties.

    This new step by the french consortium seems to be a direct respond to Saab initiative to create a research center in the same city last month.

    According to Defesanet, Rafale international has already commited to 67 projects involving 38 Brazilian companies. Discussions between Embraer and Dassault engineers would have already took place, which is rather surprising considering the pro-Gripen attitude of Embraer during the last months.

    Source : defesanet.com.br
    Also read : Bad news on rafale export front

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    MICA replacement into question

    In the 2011 defense budget law of the french National Assembly, the deputy François Cornut-Gentille tackles the issue of the mica missile successor. According to this repport, the missile will need to be replaced between 2020 and 2025. Considering that about 10 years are required to develop and integrate such a weapon, the deputy is urging the french assembly to launch a new medium range missile program as soon as possible otherwise, the french military could have no other choice than to buy a US missile in 10 years...
    The MBDA Mica Missile has entered into french Air Force service in 1996 on the Mirage 2000-5. It was also the first non-US "Fox 3" missile to be operational in NATO forces.Available in IR and EM version, it has been exported to Taiwan, Greece, UAE, Qatar for their mirage 2000-5, as well as to  Morocco (mirage F1 upgrade) and Oman (VL Mica).  Today, it is the primary Air defense missile of the Rafale for CAC and BVR engagements and it should be complemented after 2015 by the MBDA Meteor missile for very long range interception. (>100 km)

    MBDA MicaEM - ©kovy@free.fr

    The mica is a very versatile missile as both versions are capable of extreme maneuvering at close range thanks to  the TVC and, at the same time, able of medium range BVR engagements thanks to a very high velocity/acceleration (mach 4 reached in the few seconds), and data link.

    MBDA Mica IR - ©kovy@free.fr
    Besides TVC and an IIR seeker, this last point is the main difference between the Mica IR and its russian cousin, the R-27 T/ET. Indeed, the lack of data link prevents the R-27 T to be locked after launch and therefore limit its effective firing range to the range of its IR seeker. That the reason why, unlike the Mica IR, it's not a truly BVR IR missile but rather a long endurance FOX 2  intended to catch up fleeing targets at 10-15 km range.

    Despite all those qualities that make it one of the most dangerous air defense missile on the battlefield today, the Mica has some drawbacks :
    • It's small and light, which is good, but that limited size also prevents the Mica to compete with the last versions of the larger AIM-120C7/D amraam when it comes to raw effective range.
    • It is very expensive due to the rather limited number of units produced, compared to the amraam
    • It has a one way datalink whereas up&down datalinks are becoming the norm for BVR missiles.

    Pictures of Rafale M training at Hyeres Naval Base

    Rafale M on the Hyeres naval base Tarmac - ©Tiger83 - 10/27/2010
    A nice set of Rafale M pictures can be seen on the Pics-aeronef forum. They show the Rafale training at the Hyeres naval base, while waiting for the CdG to be repaired.
    Apparently, specific ground staff training was performed with live AASM "Hammer" bombs : It reminds us that the CdG and its airgroup are going to war...

    Rafale M with 2 AASM bombs (1 dummy and 1 live) - ©Tiger83 - 10/27/2010

    Snecma and French AF Join on engine maintenance

    Rafale M88-2 production line at Snecma facility
    By defenseNews

    PARIS - Safran's Snecma engines division on Nov. 9 signed a five-year partnership with the service arm of the French Air Force to share engine maintenance on Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighter jets, as well as the A400M airlifter.
    The deal is intended to boost readiness rates, speed up response times and cut costs, Snecma executives said.

    It is interesting to note that  this agreement also states that the french Air Force maintenance service could be asked to provide assistance to Snecma in order to maintain the engines of export customers of the mirage 2000 (and probably exported Rafale engines too, I presume) :

    A pooling of resources is intended to smooth out the peaks and troughs of maintenance work on the military engines, both for the French service and Snecma's foreign clients, which operate export versions of the Mirage 2000.
    Thus, if Snecma needs help to service military engines for foreign clients, it can ask the SIAé to assist with the workload.

    Full article on DefenseNews by Pierre Tran

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Typhoon leading the race for MMRCA contest

    A RAF Typhoon flying along an IAF Su-30 MKI
    According to the Sunday Telegraph the Typhoon would  have prevailed during the technical tests performed a few months ago by the Indian Air force.
    The British news paper, is citing an unnamed Indian source :

    A senior Indian official has told The Sunday Telegraph that its air force's technical findings have been forwarded to the defence ministry, where a final decision is expected to be made in the next few months.
    "There are a number of cost and strategic considerations which still have to be looked at, but in purely technical terms, Eurofighter is ahead," the official said. 

    As always with indian leaks from unnamed "official" this information should be taken with a pinch of salt. Last August, the Indian channel TimeShow TV had also revealed that the Typhoon and Rafale had been shortlisted by the IAF after the technical evaluation, a scoop, that the indian Ministry of defense had denied a week later. 

    Also read :   
    Indian Ministry of Defence denies the TimeShow TV shortlist 
    Rafale and Eurofighter selected by the Indian Airforce ?! 
    MMRCA rumors : rafale at the top ?

    Which weapons should be integrated on the Rafale

    Here are the results of our last pool (83 voters) :

    To the question "which weapon(s) should be integrated to the Rafale to enhance its export sales" the 2 big winners with more than 40% of votes are the US made AIM-120C7 amraam and the JDAM family of GPS bombs. As a matter of fact, the last version of the amraam is seen as a big advantage on export markets. It is  worth noting that all the main western concurrents of the Rafale (F-16/15/18/35, Typhoon and Gripen) use this missile.

    As far as as JDAM family is concerned, it is most likely a question of price. Indeed, those GPS guided bombs are mass produced for the US forces allowing  very low prices for export. As good as the Rafale AASM GPS bombs are, they are certainly a bit of an overkill for the current low intensity conflicts.

    Boeing JDAM bomb
    Next most wanted weapons with more than 20% of votes appear to be short range air-to-air missiles like the European Iris-T , the Israeli Python V and the US AIM-9X. It seems that the Mica IR currently used for the role on the Rafale is not considered to be the best option, or that it should be complemented by a less expensive alternative.
    Also in the "top five" is the US Anti radar missile AGM-88 HARM, a class of weapon that the Rafale simply does not have in its inventory yet.

    Just below 20% of votes, we can also cite the SDB and the Brimstone, 2 interresting weapons for CAS missions.