Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rafale on board the Foch aircraft carrier

A nice (but short) video of the Rafale M01 and M02 onbord the Foch aircraft carrier in the early 90's.
The Foch is currently operated by the Brazilian Navy under the name Sao Paulo.
The M01 has been retired but the M02 is still today the backbone of the rafale program carrier trials (especially the weapon system trials)

And an already known video i like very much : A free ride on the Rafale A with Dassault test pilot Guy mitaux-Maurouard at the stick. The vintage electronic music from the 80's is terrible but the images are beautifull.

Rafale on british CVF ?

CTOL CVF concept for the french Navy
AFP and The Times report that the french and british defense ministers will make a press conference next Friday to expose the possibility to share the use of one of  the british aircraft carrier currently under construction. The perimeter of this cooperation is not known yet :  It could be restricted to sailor training or extend to french rafale training to carrier operations.

Back in december 2005 the french had decided to join the CVF (Future british aircraft carrier) program in order to build a second aircraft carrier to complement the CVN Charles de Gaulle. The project was in a very advanced state (the catapults had even been ordered) when french president Sarkozy decided to postpone it until 2012 because of financial issues.

Therefore, the british started alone the construction of their 2 CVF, Queen Elysabeth and Prince of Wales, the first of which is due to enter service in 2016.
However, because of the 2009 financial crisis and shortage of public money, the Prince of Wales could be canceled.
In addition the british mod would be evaluating the possibility to switch from the very expensive STOVL F-35B to a conventional take off and landing (CTOL) aircraft such as the F-35C, F/A-18E  or Rafale M (not to mention a navy version of the Typhoon). But such a move would require extensive modifications on the CVF layout as catapults and arresting cables would be necessary for those fighters.

In this context a Bristish-french technical cooperation on the second CVF could make sense : The french branch of Thalès (Thalès UK is the designer of the CVF) has already made a lot of work on a CTOL CVF version for the french navy. This work could be used to convert the Prince of Wales to operate french Rafale M and future british CTOL fighters.

Nevertheless, if such a cooperation emerges, it will be most certainly limited to pilot and crew training for the french navy....the aircraft carrier remaining the sole property of the United Kingdom in case of a military operation.

Also read Bill Sweetman Analysis for Aviation Week

Edit 09/04/2010 : British Denfence minister Liam Fox has denied any plan to share british carrier with France. However a cooperation may happen on new tanker ships. BBC.

MMRCA : nothing before the end of the year ?

According to the Financial Express The US and french Presidents will visit India respectively in november and december.
The short list will be decided only when the report from the technical offset evaluation commitee will be available.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rafale picture of the day

 A Rafale ? where ? :)

AASM bomb too expensive ?

According to La tribune newspaper, the CPRA (french equivalent of the british GAO) is pointing out the excessive cost of the Sagem AASM smart bomb used on the Rafale.
La tribune reports that a single AASM would cost €351,158 to the french tax payer (total program cost of €846 million for 2,346 units). The high price would be mainly due to the 3-4 years delay during the devellopment of the weapon caused by program management issues.

Sagem has denied those figures on the well known "Secret Defense" blog, stating that the french armed forces will buy some 4,148 AASM, bringing down the total unit price to €200,000.

It is also worth noting that the AASM is more a slow and cheap guided missile than an expensive bomb.
Its unique capabilities (3 main guidance options, multi-target, all weather, stand off range even at low altitude and high off boresight shooting capability) may somehow justify a relatively high price tag.
Finally, if the AASM has been notorious for its chaotic development, it is now praised for its outstanding efficiency, accuracy, range and tactical versatility.

Friday, August 27, 2010

100 years of french naval aviation

100 ans de l'aéronautique navale

Next September, 18th, The French "aeronautique navale" will celebrate its 100th birthday at the Lann Bihoue Airbase near Lorient in south Brittany. It will be a great occasion to meet the Rafale M and its pilots. It's going to be a day to remember, don't miss it !

View Larger Map

Rafale taking part in Gascogne 03 exercice

The French Air Force had conducted a large scale exercice  from august 23th to august 27th. Almost all the french fighter types were taking part in the event : Rafale, Mirage 2000D/N, Mirage 2000-5, Mirage F1 CR and Alphajet.

The pupose of these 5 intense days was to train the crews to the whole spectrum of combat missions in a complex environment : air defense, CAS, deep strikes, SEAD... during day and night.

This week was also the occasion to prepare the next international exercices. For the Rafale crews, it will be CRUSEX V in Brazil  (november, 8th to 19th) with the Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and US Air Forces.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Damocles, soon operational on Rafale

Rafale B304 with Damocles pod - ©Jagueli
The CEAM (Centre d'Experiences Aeriennes Militaires / Military Aerial Experimentation Center) is currently finishing the operational evaluation of the Thalès Damocles pod on the Rafale.
The new LDP is due to enter operational service at the end of 2010 and could probably be deployed to Afghanistan in Early 2011.

The picture on the left was taken last July, 21st and shows the Rafale B304 of the 05.330 "cote d'argent" squadron landing at St Dizier Airbase during a test flight of the Damocles pod.
The Damocles eyes - © Antoine Grondeau
Back in 2005, the laser guided bomb was not seen as a priority for the Rafale as it was already the weapon of choise for the mirage 2000D fleet
Therefore, the AASM GPS guided bomb was integrated first on the Rafale, in order to introduce a cheap, all weather, stand of capability.for the french air Force and Navy.

However in 2007, the Rafale F2 sent to Afghanistan, received a raw integration of the GBU-12 bomb (to complement the AASM gps guided bomb). But they had to rely on an external laser designation, mirage 2000D or TAC-P, to use it.
At the end of 2008, the Damoclès pod was also demonstrated on the Rafale to the Swiss Air Force both in Air to Ground and Air to Air mission.

Eventually, it will enter into operational service  in a few months in the French Air Force. A long awaited feature for the Rafale which will be soon complemented by the laser version of the AASM

More pictures here : Delta Reflex

Swiss decision delayed until 2015

It is now official : the Swiss government will not buy a new fighter until 2015. A new financial evaluation will be made at the end of 2011 to decide if such an acquisition is possible.
Flight Global
Defense Aerospace

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Debate over Switzerland fighter jets replacement

Can Switzerland spend €3.8 billions to buy 22 aircrafts to replace its aging F-5 tiger II fleet ?

Defense Minister, Ueli Maurer, says yes but many people in Switzerland think that the country can't afford to increase military expenditures in those times of economic restrictions. Eventually, the decision could be left to the Swiss citizens through a referendum.

If the project is canceled, that would be a bad news for Dassault and the Rafale which are apparently in a good position (both technically and politically) in this contest.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rafale M24 : the nuke one

Rafale m24 "nuke" logo
During the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the french "Aeronautique Navale" at Hyere NAS (06/13/2010), the Rafale M24 was spotted with a nice nuke logo under its windshield. The M24 was, indeed the plane that was used to make the first validation shot of the new ASMP-A nuclear missile from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier (10/26/2009)

Rafale M24 during a transonic fly by (©Romain Salerno)

The Rafale M F3 of the french navy replaces the Super Etendard for the nuclear mission since early 2010 when the Navy declared the IOC of the missile on its Rafale.

A detailed article from Air&Cosmos magazine (07/07/2010) can be read here

Saturday, August 14, 2010

DSI Magazine HS N°13

In this new special issue of the DSI magazine, you will find a very interresting interview of Admiral Alain Silvy who is taking part in the technical negociations of the rafale sale to the EAU.

According to the french admiral, the EAU are asking for more performances on all main systems :

  • Engine : the SNECMA M88-9 with 9 T. of AB thrust
  • Radar : 10% more range over the current RBE-2AA
  • Spectra : more exclusive features
  • IHM : a Helmet Mounted Display...
If France accepts what the UAE are asking for, these  new features could also be implemented to the french Air Force rafale.

Indian Ministry of Defence denies the TimeShow TV shortlist

Jane's reports that the the indian Ministry of Defense has officialy denied the shorlist revealed by TmeShow TV last week.
According to the indian television, the Rafale and Eurofighter would have been seclected by the IAF for the final round of the MMRCA contest.

In the meantime other rumors from India Strategic Affairs Magazine were stating that the Mig-35, F-16IN and Typhoon  were the frontrunners while the Rafale, F-18E and Gripen would be out.

The well informed LiveFist blog has also brought more interesting material in the rumor bag :
  • The IAF evaluation would be based on 643 performance tests
  • The IAF repport would make no recommendation but would only present the raw results of each test.
It seems that that we will have to wait for an official declaration from the India Mindef to know the truth...

Thales delivers First AESA radar for the Rafale F3

Thales RBE-2AA radar would have about 1000 modules
Thales is delivering the first batch of 4 production AESA RBE-2AA this month (2010/08) to Dassault. Those new radar developped for the so called Rafale roadmap program will be fitted on the 60 rafale F3+ ordered for the french air force in december 2009. No retrofit to the 120 first rafale is planed so far.

The RBE-2AA replaces the previous passive RBE-2 antenna (PESA).

The main benefits of the new active antenna are :
  • greater range (up to 50%) matching the meteor range
  • lower sidelobes
  • Better reliability
Moreover it will allow upgrades such as ECM and data link to be directly integrated in the radar.
The current RBE-2AA is using GaAs technology  but more efficient GaN modules are in the pipe for the next major Mid life update of the Rafale. In a recent interview in Aviation Week, Thales head of electronic combat system, Pierre Yves Chatiel, explains that those modules, using the Thales Cloud architecture, could be used as conformal antennas on the aircraft sharing the same aperture as the main antenna. However, this will requiered  between 5 and 10 years of developpement and 1 billion € of funding.

A very interresting document about Thales TRM technology is available here 
Aviation Week article here

Thanks to Arthuro, olybrius and  Kirtap for the sources !

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pictures : M88-2 being changed

Found on Ilvolo.it forum : a nice set of pictures showing the setup to change the SNECMA M88-2 engine. They were taken last year at the St Dizier Airbase, nest of the Rafale squadron EC 1.7 Provence.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rafale and Eurofighter selected by the Indian Airforce ?!

According to the Indian channel  TIMESHOW.TV, the Indian Air Force would have selected the Dassault Rafale and the Eurogihter Typhoon for the final run of the MMRCA competition :

The article states that :

"Despite MiG 35s big thunder, its engine failing to impress while the F-16, according to the IAF has no future. Another reason favouring Rafale and Eurofighter is political. Thomas Matussek, German Ambassador, “We regard India as a strategic security partner and this is why we do not insist on an end user monitoring agreement period.” So when the mother of all defence deals is signed for the 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft either Rafale or the Eurofighter will fly away with the Rs 42,000 crore deal."

If this short list is confirmed by the Indian governement, it will be the first time that the 2 european fighters will meet in the final of a contest.
In Korea, Singapore and Brazil , the Tyhoon was eliminated  before the Rafale.
In Saudi Arabia, the Typhoon was selected witout a competition (despite french president Jacques Chirac pressures to sell the Rafale).

On a pure technical point of view, both aircrafts are very similar. The Eurofighter is often believed to be a better Air 2 Air machine while the Rafale would be a more versatile fighter jet with the ability to perform air to ground and air to air attacks simultaneously.
However, recent international exercices would have proven the Rafale to be more than a match for the Typhoon in both ACM (Air Combat maneuvering) and BVR (Beyong Visual Range). The key points of the Rafale advantage over its european brother would be
  • a better RCS (radar cross section)
  • a sensor fusion system allowing a better situational awareness in complex BVR engagements
  • The TV sensor of the SFO  allowing long range identification
  • The SPECTRA ECM suite allowing passive targeting and missile guidance
  • The mica passive IIR BVR missile
Discuss on the Rafale Internation Forum

    Rafale vs Raptor : What really happened during ATLC 2009 ?

    9 months after the international exercice (ATLC) that took place in the United Arabe Emirates, Jon Lake exposes the point of view of the Major John Rogers, project officer for the F-22 deployment.
    The USAF refused to comment directly about the French claims, though the 27th Fighter Squadron’s project officer for the F-22 deployment, Major John Rogers, told Arabian Aerospace: “I don’t remember the fights quite that way. In any case, we leave claims and counter-claims to the debrief.” [...]
    "For these training missions, the F-22As flew only within visual range 1 vs 1 BFM (Basic Fighter Manoeuvring) sorties, and did so carrying under-wing fuel tank [...]"

     Major John Rojers brings 2 points on the table :
    • He doesn't aknowlege the claims of Lt Colonnel Granclaudon.but remains very elusive on what really happened between the Rafale and the Raptor.
    • The F-22 were dogfighting with external tanks reducing their maneuvering capabilities.
    Why majors Rojers seems to be embarassed about Granclaudon's Rafale vs Raptor report ? After all, the french officer does not claim any victory over the F-22.
    It's just like if the fact that the raptor was not able to squash the french fighter was perceaved as a defeat by the US staff... therefore the attempt to explain the lack of "dominance" by strange excuses.

    Fortunaltly, the french weekly Air and Cosmos released a very instructive pictures to illustrate the rafale vs F-22 dogfights :
    This image of a F-22 was taken by the SFO of a Rafale : The Raptor is obviously maneuvering hard in the vertical plane  (noise up and post combution on) to catch up with an inverted rafale pulling G toward the ground. The F-22 is clearly not in a position for a gun or a fox2 kill.
    As all the targeting data have been removed,  it is also impossible to tell if the rafale has the upper hand : The SFO has a high of boresight capability, therefore the rafale probably took this picture without being able to get valid gun shot on the F-22. in addition, the big red cross could indicate that the F-22 is too close for a mica IR shot (which is less than 500m).
    But the most interresting detail of this picture, is that the Raptor is not carrying any external tank despite what Mr Lake says in his article. ;)

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    MMRCA rumors : rafale at the top ?

    Do the indian and Brazilian air forces converging to the same conclusions ?
    According to Mr Pepe Rezende, yes, definitely. The man is a former Brazilian journalist currently working for the Brazilian Senate's Foreign Affairs and National Defence Committee.
    He recently shoke the aviation forums by revealing hard facts detailed in the brasilian air force repport for FX-2 contest. his motivation was apparently to stop some false rumors on this repport.

    So what all this has to do with the indian competition. Well, it seem that Mr Rezende had the opportunity to talk with some indian air force officials about the MMRCA trials : The Rafale would have won the technical evaluation by succeding in all the tests asked by the IAF :

    Mr Rezende :
    "Rafale WON the performance tests. It completed all IAF missions using only half of F/A-18E/F flights. Rafale destroyed a target 50km far with a 2 meters margin of error. At performance point of view, it won all bidders, including in AtoA missions but, in my opinion, your [indian] choice will be a political one favouring Boeing."

    Rafale C101 drops an AASM smart bomb
    It is very likely that the 50km range strike he reffers to was a test using the AASM-IR smart bomb.

    It is also interresting to note that the Rafale would have [once again] outperformed the typhoon during the Air to air trials : The planes sent to India were fitted with the brand new Thales AESA RBE-2AA which seems to work rather well against air targets.

    He also wrote on Keypublishing about the Leh high altitude trials :
    "According Indian officers, two planes failed: MiG35 and F/A-18E/F. Gripen Demo takes off with the required load (only two tanks, four air-to-air missiles and a cargo of 1900kg bombs). Typhoon and Rafale takes off with full cargo but EADS bidder failed at some attack missions"

    Leh is the highest commercial airfield (3000 m) thus some aircraft can have difficulties to power their engine(s) on.

    India MMRCA short list to be revealed soon

    After almost one year of evaluation of the 6 contenders (F-/18E, Rafale, F-16IN, Gripen C/D/demo, Mig-35 and Typhoon, India is expected to release soon a short list with the fighters that will be allowed to participate in the final round of the contest.

    So far, no info was leaked on the aircraft(s) that could be eliminated.

    My best guess is :
    • at least one US aircraft is in the short list
    • at least one euro-canard does not make it and it is not the rafale :)
    • I would also bet on the Mig elimination

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Brasil FX-2 contest

    Some news about Brazil Decision from www.correiobraziliense.com. The rafale still have the lead but there is little chance that the contract will be signed before october and the end of the brazilian elections.

    interactive Comparison of the 3 contenders

    2 good rafale Videos I had missed

    First : Rafale M01 and M02 trials caimpaign on the Foch. Note Eric Gerard, Dassault test pilot without his legendary beard :)

    Second : nice montage of french navy footage shot before 2007