Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MMRCA : India to choose Typhoon or Rafale

As reported by Stratpost.com and the Livefist blog, it's now official, India will make its choice between Rafale and Typhoon.



All four other contenders are out :
StratPost can also confirm that according to the IAF and the ministry, the other aircraft in the fray, the US Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the US Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-16, the Russian MiG-35 and the Swedish SAAB’s Gripen did not pass the technical evaluation conducted by the IAF.

This news comes as a confirmation of what Shiiv Aroor had said before.


We will now wait until tomorrow (April 28th) to learn more as we still wait for official comments by the Indian MoD, and other contenders...

Update
: Confirmation that Saab, Lockheed and Boeing are out

Here is a letter from Saab (click me).

In this article from The Hindu, the U.S. ambassador Mr. Roemer :

“The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was informed yesterday that two aircraft offered by the U.S. Government through the Foreign Military Sales process were not selected for procurement by the Indian Ministry of Defence,” the statement said.

“We are reviewing the documents received from the Government of India and are respectful of the procurement process. We are, however, deeply disappointed by this news,” Mr. Roemer said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Libya, April 15-21 air operations stats

Missions log - (40 sorties/day - 20% of  NATO sorties - 25% of NATO ground attack sorties) :

  • CAS and interdiction (+40%) : 135 flights (Rafale, Mirage 2000D, Mirage F1 CR, Super Etendard)
  • Reconnaissance (+8%) : 52 flights (Rafale, Mirage F1 CR)
  • Inflight refueling (+33%) : 44 flights (C-135, Rafale M, Super Etendard)
  • AWACS (+50%) : 18 flights (E-3F, E-2C)
  • Air Defense (+18%) : 26 flights (Mirage 2000-5F)
Targets destroyed :
  • 1 MRL (Adjabya)
  • about 10 military vehicules (Misrata, Adjabya, Zlitan)
  • 3  SAM sites (Tripoli, Misrata)
  • several communication and command facilities (Syrte, Tripoli, Ras Lanuf)
  • several ammunition depots (Syrte, Tripoli)
Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/


picture 1 : A weapon specialist loads a Mica IR on a Rafale M
picture 2 : A weapon specialist loads a GBU-12 on a Rafale M

Friday, April 15, 2011

Libya, AP report from the CdG


ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE (AP) — As French navy Rafale and Super Etendard fighter-bombers carrying laser-guided bombs catapulted Wednesday off the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier into a cloudless Mediterranean sky, officers onboard described the difficulties they face: Despite all the modern technology, troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are harder than ever to identify from the air.

Gadhafi's forces are now expertly camouflaging their units to conceal them from detection and attack from the air, the officers said.
"There is obviously a degree of savoir-faire on the part (of Gadhafi's forces) that we haven't seen before," said the commander of the carrier's air wing, who identified himself only as Herve.
He compared it to the performance of Serbian troops during NATO's airstrikes in Kosovo in 1999. The Serbs weathered NATO attacks and minimized their losses of tanks, armored personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles and other vehicles through deft use of camouflage.

The Charles de Gaulle, a nuclear-powered carrier known in the French navy by its nickname "El Grande Charles," is cruising along the northern edge of the Gulf of Sirte, near Libyan territory. It leads a standard carrier task force of three frigates, a resupply oiler and a nuclear hunter-killer submarine.
From its decks, at least 20 sorties over Libya are launched each day.

The twin-engine Dassault Rafales flown Wednesday carried a combination of Mica air-to-air missiles, GBU-12 250-kilogram laser-guided bombs, GBU-58 125 kilogram bombs and laser pods designed to pinpoint targets for the bombs.

The Super Etandards, a modernized version of a single-engine strike jet originally introduced into the French navy's inventory in the 1960s, were armed with the laser-guided bombs.
The warplanes, divided into two five-jet flights, are charged with patrolling the battlefields and looking for targets of opportunity.

2 Rafale M with their Reco-NG pod ©Christophe Ena
 From the decks of the carrier, it can be hard to gauge the results of the action over Libya. NATO reported from its headquarters in Brussels that 12 tanks were destroyed near Zintan, and an ammunition storage site was destroyed near Sukhan, south of Sirte.

A Rafale M is dumpping fuel before landing ©Christophe Ena
NATO also said that 159 sorties had been flown Wednesday over Libya, 60 of them classified as strike sorties. But as officers on this ship know only too well, the pilots on strike sorties cannot always clearly identify targets; often they return without having dropped their bombs.

To observers on the ground the fighting appears to have changed little. But the naval task force's commander, Rear Adm. Philippe Coindreau, gave an optimistic report Wednesday. The back-and-forth stalemate of the first week of April had ended and opposition forces had seized the initiative, he said.
"There's been a reversal of that tendency; the oppositions forces have regained territory," he said in his headquarters on board the Charles de Gaulle. "Whether the air operation is more effective or not, I don't know."

He said, though, that coordination between NATO and the opposition in Benghazi has improved recently.
"Initially there was no coordination between the rebels and NATO, but nowadays NATO has more information through contacts with the opposition leadership in Benghazi," Coindreau said.
"I have a feeling that if the air campaign continues and if the political and diplomatic dialogue continues, then we can arrive at a cease-fire acceptable to all sides."

To journalists on the ground, the situation appears more nuanced. Weekend airstrikes around the city of Ajdabiya blunted an advance by forces loyal to Gadhafi. But it does not appear that the rebels have taken a significant amount of territory: The main front remains around the eastern city of Brega, and those rebel fighters who are in the west remain bottled up.
Coindreau acknowledged that it was still difficult for NATO to ascertain the exact balance of forces on the front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya, because Gadhafi's forces have started breaking their units into smaller, more maneuverable contingents and using civilian vehicles for transport and combat actions.
The Charles de Gaulle mounted the first reconnaissance flights over Libya on March 22. Attack missions followed almost immediately, and the ship has acted as the tip of the spear for the international aerial onslaught on Gadhafi's forces ever since.

Libya has two Soviet-built Foxtrot submarines that could threaten the Charles de Gaulle and the approximately 25 other NATO vessels patrolling the Libyan coastline.
"So far they have made no preparations to put to sea, so we have left them alone," Cmdr. Marc Gander said. "But we make sure to monitor them regularly just in case."

The NATO fleet has been joined by a smaller Italian carrier, the Garibaldi, but no U.S. Navy carriers have joined in the assault. An amphibious assault ship, the USS Kearsarge, which was in the region at the start of the U.S.-led operation on March 21, steamed away after Washington ended its combat role and turned the command of the operation over to NATO.
The Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French fleet and the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the United States.

It is also the only one outside the U.S. Navy to use the so-called CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system, whereby planes are launched by catapults and recovered by arrestor wires.
This allows fighter-bombers to carry much heavier loads than the alternative short takeoff systems used by most of the navies operating aircraft carriers.





Associated Press Writer Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report.

LAAD 2011, Rafale sensor fusion

"LAAD – Defence & Security, the most important trade show for the defence and security industry in Latin America – takes place every two years bringing together Brazilian and international companies that specialise in supplying equipment and services to all three major services of the Armed Forces, Police, special forces and security services, as well as consultants and government agencies."

During the 3rd day of the trade show, last wednesday April 14th, Dassault has presented the Rafale to the press.
One of the slide of the presentation released by Poder Aereo is explaining how the Rafale sensor fusion works. I think this slide is rather interesting as it might show how the Rafale is operating during BVR combats :

The first Rafale, using its radar, remains at long range and feeds the second Rafale (mica shooter) through the data link. The mica shooter get much closer (mica range) to the bandits, but in full passive mode, using the OSF and Spectra to identify the targets and improve the targeting data. When the missiles have been shot, the shotter brakes away, and let the first Rafale guide its missiles from a safe range.

This is a very tricky situation for the bandits because :

1- The closest rafale shooting the mica is hidding and thus, is difficult to detect (no EM emissions) but remains the primary threat until it breaks away.
2- The second rafale, is clearly showing itself, radar on, but it remains out of missile range.
3- the mica are not coming from the rafale which is guiding them

Retro, Rafale A Vs EAP

25 years ago (September 1986), the Rafale A was performing its first public demonstration at the Farnborough air show in UK, only 2 months after its first flight on July 4th 1986. At that time Bae was presenting the EAP, the demonstrator which will lead to the eurofighter 8 years later.

During this Air show, the Rafale A was already showing agressive maneuvering and outstanding turning and climbing capabilities despite a flight log of only 40 hours. Conversely the EAP flight demo was a lot more conservative. 

Libya, April 7-14 air operations stats

Missions log (20% of  NATO sorties) :

  • CAS and interdiction : 96 flights (Rafale, Mirage 2000D, Mirage F1 CR, Super Etendard)
  • Reconnaissance : 48 flights (Rafale, Mirage F1 CR)
  • Inflight refueling : 33 flights (C-135, Rafale M, Super Etendard)
  • AWACS : 12 flights (E-3F, E-2C)
  • Air Defense : 22 flights (Mirage 2000-5F)

Targets destroyed :
  • 5 artillery guns (including a MRL)
  • 2 tank carriers
  • 15 military vehicule
  • 1 AAA vehicule
  • 2 SA-2 SAM site
  • 1 command center (Syrte)
  • 1 ammunition depot (Brega/Adjabiya)
Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/


picture 1 : Rafale M31 about to be launched from the CdG with 4 GBU-12
picture 2 : A line up a 3 generations of Dassault Fighters : Mirage F1 CR, Mirage 2000D, Rafale B/C (Solenzzara AB, Corsica)

A rafale C in Recce config

View from the CdG Air control tower

A Rafale M and a E-2 follow the flight deck officer orders

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rafale pictures of the day

Rafale M - ©French Navy

Rafale M27 - Landivisiau - ©Jens - April 2011

Rafale M - ©French Navy

Last Rafale M take off for FEF

Even during war time, the tradition must go on : For his last take off as a navy pilot, "FEF", a French Air Force pilot who spent almost 3 years in the French Navy 12F squadron as an exchange officer, receives the last salute of the other Rafale M pilots of the squadron. The tradition also demands that the catapult officer gives the launch order with a navy saber instead of the usual green flag. During his journey in the navy, FEF will have perform 154 carrier landings, day and night.

Note that the Rafale M31 on the pict is the last Rafale M delivered so far.
Source : French navy

Friday, April 8, 2011

Libya, 2 more Rafale M for the CdG

The 8 Rafale M currently operating on the CdG as part of operation Harmatan will be complemented by 2 more aircrafts from the ETR02.092 Aquitaine (Rafale initial training squadron) and CEAM (trial squadron).

The fact that the French Navy has to call back 2 planes usually dedicated to training and weapons trials shows the chronic shortage of Rafale M. Indeed, although 31 Rafale M has been delivered since 2000, 3 has been lost, 1 is used by the flight test Center, and 9 are kept in storage, waiting for their F1 to F3 upgrade. Therefore, The French Navy can only rely on 18 machines. And if we consider an average availability of 75-80%, that leaves a tiny fleet of 13-14 Rafale M ready to be used at a given time.

Needless to say that the small number of available planes and the high number of flight hours with heavy loads demanded by the Libyan campaign from the CdG is consuming the structural life potential of those airframes fast.

Libya, Last week air operations stats

Missions log :
  • CAS and interdiction : 120 flights (Rafale, Mirage 2000D, Mirage F1 CR, Super Etendard)
  • Reconnaissance : 24 flights (Rafale, Mirage F1 CR)
  • Inflight refueling : 22 flights (C-135)
  • budy budy refueling : 28 flights (Rafale M, Super Etendard)
  • AWACS : 13 flights (E-3F, E-2C)
  • Air Defense : 22 flights (Mirage 2000-5F)

Targets destroyed :
  • 04/01 : 1 tank (Misratah)
  • 04/02 : 5 Armored vehicules (Syrthe)
  • 04/03 : 2 tank carriers (Ras Lanouf)
  • 04/05 : 1 military vehicule (Brega)
  • 04/06 : 2 SAM sites (Zlitan and Syrthe)
Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Libya, Rafale + AASM Sead capability demonstrated

    More details about the air strikes performed by the French Air Force and Navy are leaked since a few days. Thanks to Defense journalist JD Merchet, We learned yeasterday that one of the very first AASM strike in Libya on march 19st, was done at an  outstanding range of 55 km from the target !
    Moreover, Defense journalist Jean Guisnel, reveals today that Rafale fighters loaded with AASM had conducted direct air strike on an SA-3 sam site, turning down the help of specialized SEAD fighter support offered by the USA.

    These 2 examples illustrate perfectly the unique abilities of this new weapon for SEAD missions against medium range SAM sites. Range, accuracy, fire and forget, all weather capability, relative speed, inflight targeting flexibility (targets coordinates can be uploaded from many sources) make it a very varsatile weapon.

    Also on Mr Guisnel blog, we can read that 11 scalps was fired during the March 23-24th night against the al-Joufra Air base, deep inside the Libyan territory. Apparently, 4 of the missiles were delivered by Rafale M and 7 by mirage 2000D (to be confirmed). All of them hit their target among wich was a command center.

    Also read : AASM becomes the Hammer

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Brazil, FX-2 current status analysis by Stephen Trimble

    2 Rafale - Cruzex V- Natal AB - Brazil
    Waiting continues for Brazil’s F-X2 contract decision
    Between September 2009 and January 2011, Brazil's F-X2 fighter competition seemed more like a power struggle than an evaluation process, with the state's political leadership favouring the Dassault Rafale and the air force preferring either of two alternatives. In this narrative, the winning bid would belong to the victorious side of an internal battle within the Brazilian bureaucracy, with most bets on the Rafale - President Luiz InĂ¡cio "Lula" da Silva's declared favourite.

    However, the dynamics of the competition, worth at least $6 billion, completely changed on 6 December 2010, when da Silva ceded the F-X2 decision to his successor and former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, who became president on 1 January 2011.
    [...]
    If any country has claimed political advantage in the competition so far, however, it has been France. On Brazilian independence day, 7 September, in 2009, visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy secured da Silva's promise that Brazil would buy 36 Rafales in exchange for France purchasing 12 KC-390s. That deal was followed by a long period of price adjustment. By August, local reports had Rafale emerging as the top-ranked aircraft in the air force evaluation, even though it was still the most expensive. The ranking was reportedly changed to make technology transfer more important than operating cost.
    Read Full article on Flight Global

    Reuters Special Report - How Libya is a showcase in the new arms race

    A Rafale prepares to refuel on it way to libya
    Mon Apr 4, 2011 4:11pm GMT
    By Tim HepherPARIS (Reuters)

    Extract from the article :
    [...]

    "MOST UNSEEMLY" In the immediate PR battle over Libya, analysts say the Rafale appears to be winning. Not only was it handed a front-page role on the first day of the conflict, but it also scored a symbolic victory by reaching Libya equipped for air-to-ground attack, something the Typhoon has so far only done in tests. The Typhoon is focussing instead on air-to-air warfare against an enemy whose air force has been more or less pinned to the ground by strikes on radars and air defences.

    French officials dismiss any suggestion of deliberate showmanship in the deployment of Rafales in the opening hours of the conflict, saying their flexibility made them right for the task of destroying tanks that were closing on rebel positions in eastern Libya. But there is no doubt the lead taken by Sarkozy signals a more confident diplomatic posture that France hopes will benefit Rafale sales indirectly. Countries buying fighters must be ready to invest in a diplomatic relationship lasting 30 or 40 years, and competitors are bracing for an all-out French sales offensive once the conflict is over, or even before.

    "Sarkozy has done a great job in getting the Rafale out there and hitting a convoy early on. He will go to export markets and say this is what our planes can do," said a defence executive from a rival arms producing nation. [ed. I sense some jealousy here ;)]

    [...]

    Read Full Article on Reuters.com

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Rafale Libyan campaign photo album

    Most of the pictures of the Rafale engaged over libya since March 21st

    Video of Rafale Strike

    A video of what looks like a multitarget AASM strike on a Libyan ammunition depot.
    According to the French MoD, the attack was conducted on Monday March 28th, 100 km south of Tripoli in the Garyan area, by the following aicrafts :
    • 2 Rafale Air
    • 2 Rafale M 
    • 3 Mirage 2000 D
    • 3 Super Etendard
    • 1 E-2C Hawkeye
    • 1 C-135
    • 1 Rafale M and 1 Super Etendard as additionnal Refueling aircrafts
    AASM and GBU were used for the attack.


    Friday, April 1, 2011

    MMRCA : Rafale would (still) be in pole position for the final run

    According to Indian defense journalist Shiv Aroor who was apparently one of the selected journalists briefed by the Indian MoD , the Rafale would be the favored aircraft among the 6 MMRCA contenders, closely followed by the Eurofighter :

    "As the decade-stretched competition plods toward a decision, tentatively scheduled in the next few months, the near unanimous sense -- from rumours, reports, leaks, hearsay, background briefings -- is that the big European twins, the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon -- are the IAF's two most preferred aircraft, and in that order"

    IAF ranking would thus be : Rafale >> Eurofighter >> Gripen >> F-18E >> F-16I >> Mig-35
    If true, this would be a tremendous victory for the Rafale, as a fighter jet, because the MoD insists on the fact that the selection process has been 100% professional and independant from external pressures :

     "There is no political pressure. This is such a large deal that it is apt for showcasing the excellent and professional job India has done in making an informed decision which is independent of any factors, including strategic and geopolitical. The air force is the customer, not the Ministry of External Affairs."

    This sounds like a warning shot to the US manufacturers which are usually keen to put all the diplomatic weight of the White House in their bids. 
    However, it remains to be seen if the recent blacklisting by the IAF of the Dassault representative in India will affect the Rafale status for the last stage of the contest. . Also, it is now most probably, that Dassault will be the target of all the other contenders.... 3 of them being huge defense conglomerates that are not famous for their fair play.

    Another card that France and Dassault may play to secure the deal, would be to link the Mirage 2000 upgrade with the MMRCA. After the failure of the Mirage 2000 bid back in 2001, such a proposal has been pushed by the French several times without success as India would rather keep the 2 project (Mirage 2000 retrofit and MMRCA) separated.

    Anyway, With the Rafale brilliantly demonstrating its multirole capabilies daily in Libya while the Eurofighter has merely a token role,  this remains a very good news for Dassault 3 months before the 49th Paris Air Show (June 20th to 26th).

    Rafale HMD spotted !

    © Charles Neuf
    April fool - At last, a Rafale pilot has been spotted with a Helmet Mounted Display earlier this week at the Mont de Marsan Air Base (CEAM).
    It is not known yet if this helmet is from Sagem or Thales. In 2005 the 2 companies had competed to equip the French Air Force. Back then, Sagem won the contract with its Gerfaut HMD but the deal was eventualy broken y the French DGA for some reason.

    It was said that the Sagem product was favored because it was using IR detection instead of radio tracking, a system considered by the French Navy as too sensitive to interferences in the dense EM environment of the aircraft carrier.

    Since then, it was said that Thales had took the lead back with an upgraded version of the Topsight.
    Apparently, the HMD on the picture seems to fit on a standard Gallet LA-100 helmet and looks rather compact. We will probably learn more about this long awaited equipment at the next Le Bourget Air Show due to take place in Paris next June. - April fool

    Ok that was not funny :)
    For those who thought it was real, the helmet is in fact a gallet LA-100 (the usual French Air Force flight helmet) mixed with a Thales topowl, HMD of the Tiger Helicopter (See below)