Friday, July 29, 2011

FX-2, Rafale operational capacity ahead of competitors

Dassault Virtual Reality Center (VRC), ©Dassault/A.Fevrier.
This is what Jean-Marc Merialdo, Rafale representative in Brazil, said to the IG journalist during an interview about the FX-2 contest.

According to Merialdo, the primary asset of the Rafale is the unrestricted transfer of technology garanted by the French presidency :

[...]"Our package of technology transfer is priceless. It is total, complete, all the technology of the fighter"
" full and complete package of technological and industrial cooperation , including know-how, software, hardware, processes and delivers all the tools and source code needed without any restriction."
"The ToT is guaranteed by the French government and is based on a range of partnerships with Brazilian industry and universities, and falls into a strategic partnership signed between President Lula and Sarkozy at the end of 2008."

When asked about the technical benefits of Rafale over its 2 competitors, Merialdo said that the French fighter is more modern than the F/A-18E and more powerfull (range, payload) than the Gripen. He also emphasized on the data fusion which allows the plane to gather data from internal and external sensors and to conduct several missions during the same flight as demonstrated in Libya.

Concerning the usual claim that the Rafale is the most expensive of the 3 fighters Merialdo was rather elusive :
[...] "In a competition you do not disclose your price if you don't want to give some advantage to your competitors. About the cost of operation, I can not give you the figure for now, because they are being further refined, especially with the operation in Libya. I can say that they are constantly decreasing."

Read the full article

Thursday, July 28, 2011

UAE, weak dollar delays the Rafale deal

Defense News report about Dassault Aviation press conference :

PARIS - The price resistance from the United Arab Emirates on the Rafale fighter jet stems from an unfavorable euro-dollar exchange rate, but talks on the French aircraft continue, Dassault Aviation executive chairman Charles Edelstenne said July 28.
The UAE's discussion with Lockheed Martin about a potential purchase of additional F-16 fighters was "not a negative sign," Edelstenne told a press conference on the company's results for the first half of the year.
"Talks are going on," he said.
But with the euro at $1.40, the Rafale's sale price was boosted by the currency exchange rate, Edelstenne said. Dassault could not cut prices by 40 percent to offset the weaker dollar.
"I make Mirages, not miracles," he said.
The euro was trading at $1.43 in early afternoon, with the dollar under severe pressure from the U.S. government impasse on raising the debt-ceiling limit ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline.
Edelstenne refused to disclose the unit price of a Rafale, but he said an export purchase generally involves a political decision to pay a "price premium" that granted "independence of action." As the Rafale is built in France, reflecting a strategic decision on sovereignty, its costs are in euros, making it more expensive than an American fighter aircraft sold in dollars.

In other words, given a Rafale fly away price of €60 million,
One year ago, one Rafale could be bought for $72 million while the very same aircraft would cost $86 million today, only because the $/€ has fallen.

If you intend to by 60 aircrafts like the UAE, that's $830 million more to pay (and in fact much more if you take into account the whole contract perimeter with spare parts, weapons, training...)

MMRCA, Final decision expected within 5-6 weeks


India’s Air Chief Marshal P V Naik has said the likely winner of the multi-billion dollar combat aircraft deal would be known in the "next five to six" weeks.

"The next step is to call vendors and open up the commercial bids. I think in the next five to six weeks, I expect that the L1 (lowest bidder) would be decided," he said on Tuesday.

As per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), the lowest bidder in the multi vendor tenders is considered to be the winner of the deals. [...]
Read the full article

This official statement by the highest IAF officer would confirm that the final stage of the MMRCA contest will be processed on schedule.

Edit 07/28
Also read

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rafale pictures of the day

July 1st 2011, Rafale B309 taking off from Malta Airport with 4 GBU-12 and Damocles pod for its next mission over Libya
Picture credit : Alan Cordina

July 16th 2011, Rafale C118 performs high G maneuvers during RIAT Air show
picture creditt : Mark Kwiatkowski

MMRCA, IAF pushes for opening of the bids

©Arpit Agrawal
According to PTI, the IAF is pushing for the 2 remaining contenders bids (Dassault and EADS) to be opened as soon as possible

“We are pushing the Defence Ministry to open the bids of these two companies by the end of this month,” a senior IAF official told PTI.

After the opening of the commercial bids, the Defence Ministry will work out the L-1 (lowest bidder) in the tender on the basis of the life cycle cost of operating the two aircraft.

“There are around nine enclosures and each of them have 20 points which include parameters like labour cost, repairing and maintenance cost, cost of spare parts and their service ability and the man-hours required to maintain the aircraft. All this would be taken into account to determine the lowest bidder,” the official said.

Read the full article from

The MMRCA final decision is expected for September. 

Super Etendard and Rafale taking off from RNAS Yeovilton

Rafale M28 and Super Etendard 46 taking off from Yeovilton Air Base after the air show.
Must see ! The impressive climb and maneuver of the Rafale starting at 2:34 !

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rafale and AASM-Hammer, a dynamic duo

20-07-2011 - As we have seen throughout recorded history, each new conflict seems to bring its own share of innovations. Recently, for example, the air strikes over Libya – Operation Harmattan for France, and Operation Unified Protector for NATO in the framework of the UN resolution 1973 – have spotlighted the unexpectedly powerful performance of a new French-made weapon, the AASM Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) air-to-ground modular weapon developed and produced by Sagem.

The AASM made a discreet debut in the spring of 2008, when the French air force deployed a 250-kg version in Afghanistan. Today, it is part of the standard combat suite carried by the Dassault Rafale F3 multirole fighter. In fact, it’s an integral part of the tactical air-to-ground arsenal deployed by both the French air force and naval air arm, and has also been chosen by the Royal Moroccan air force as part of their current program to modernize Mirage F1 fighters. The AASM Hammer is a medium-range guided weapon that can be used day or night and under all weather conditions – which is not the case of regular laser guided bombs, which have to be launched in the vicinity of air defense systems. Furthermore, these bombs’ guidance may be compromised, or even rendered ineffective by cloud cover or hard rain.

France has already ordered more than 1,500 AASMs in the 250-kg version. The AASM is a rocket propelled bomb with terminal guidance, capable of very high precision attacks on targets at a range of more than 60 km. In other words, it can be fired by Rafale or Mirage fighters from a comfortable standoff distance, outside the reach of enemy air defenses. The AASM stands out because it’s a modular weapon system, totally autonomous and jam-proof, flying resolutely towards its target once the coordinates have been manually loaded into the onboard computer by the pilot. The most advanced AASM models, like the Laser version now undergoing final tests, allow the modification of terminal guidance if needed to hit moving targets. In short, the AASM is a real “fire & forget” weapon. It could also be considered the equivalent of an air-to-surface missile, if only because its exceptional performance makes it the only weapon of its kind of the market for now.

Rafale C ready to take off from Solenzara AB with 4 AASM ©P. Wodka-Gallien
Furthermore, the AASM "Hammer" is a family of precision weapons, with guidance and propulsion kits fitted to standard bombs of different sizes: 125 kg, 250 kg, 500 kg and 1,000 kg – the latter dubbed the “bunker buster” because of its ability to penetrate several meters of reinforced concrete. The aft-mounted propulsion kit comprises a solid rocket motor and four winglets for flight control, deployed when the weapon is released.

The most commonly used version today is the SBU-38 (Smart Bomb Unit) AASM 250, with hybrid inertial/GPS guidance. There is also the SBU-54 version, combining an inertial guidance system (INS), GPS correction and terminal guidance via an infrared imager (IIR). The latest addition to the family is the SBU-64, which adds laser terminal guidance to the INS/GPS hybrid package, enabling the AASM to hit moving or even highly agile targets.

The AASM’s sophisticated terminal guidance means that this weapon features capabilities unmatched by a conventional laser guided bomb. In particular, the AASM offers a virtually vertical terminal trajectory, enabling it to attack, for example, a tank hidden behind a sand embankment or a concrete wall, or even a target in a narrow street or trench.

To date, the French air force has deployed about one hundred bombs in combat, all the SBU-38 INS/GPS version. This uses the basic guidance kit, with three inertial gyros whose directional pulses are managed by a Kalman filter and corrected in real time by satellite data from a military-standard GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. The Kalman filter is actually a mathematical method, or set of algorithms used to improve accuracy. It is applied in the form of an infinite impulse response electronics filter that estimates the various states of a dynamic system, based on a series of incomplete or scrambled measurements. Sagem’s engineers paid particular attention to this issue, to ensure that the AASM flight path could be continuously corrected and recalculated according to a predicted path that would enable it to hit its target within several meters – after a flight of 60 kilometers or more, as was demonstrated in the Libyan theater of operations recently.

To further improve precision, Sagem has developed two new versions of the AASM, currently underoing final tests, that are no longer impacted by erroneous target coordinates: the SBU-54, which adds an infrared imaging mode, capable of recognizing a fixed target, the coordinates of which were first entered in its memory; and the SBU-64, using terminal guidance by acquisition of a laser spot, enabling it to destroy moving ground targets with a high degree of accuracy – to less than a meter in this case! A recent test demonstrated the effectiveness of this version against a target moving at 80 km/h.

Deploying both Mica air-to-air missiles and Hammer air-to-ground weapons, the Rafale fighters deployed in Libya have demonstrated unprecedented operational flexibility. The weapon system fulfills its assigned "swing role" capability, between air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. But in its configuration with four Mica and six Hammer missiles, the Rafale also provides real swing-role capability between different ground attack missions. For instance, a patrol in this configuration prepared for a Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI) mission can change to a ground attack mission when already in flight, to perform dynamic targeting of very different types of targets, including air defense sites or armored vehicles arriving at the front lines, without being affected by different weather conditions.

  The most eloquent testimony undoubtedly comes from the French air force and navy pilots who deploy the SBU-38 daily, alongside their GBU-12 Paveway laser guided bomb, the standard 250-kg bomb used by NATO air forces.

According to Captain P, who is very satisfied with the performance of this new weapon, "In the Libyan theater of operations, as soon as we have the slightest suspicion of air defenses, which are always widely scattered in Libya, we remove the Paveway bombs and equip our Rafales with the AASM, because it allows us to effectively engage the enemy, away from their air defenses, especially the dangerous ’SAM rings’.

In TST (Time Sensitive Targeting) mode, the AASM’s range also allows us to hit a target without being detected from the ground, a possibility in asymmetrical combat. What’s more, a single Rafale can carry up to six AASMs. These are all significant advantages. Plus, since we can fire our weapons from further away than with the Paveway, and don’t need approach maneuvers, we save fuel – and in the combat environment, fuel is a key factor.

"The AASM is guided autonomously after being released, once the target coordinates have been obtained, whether they were uploaded to the system prior to the mission or in-flight. In TST mode, the target coordinates are generally provided by the Rafale’s optronics systems, either the front sector optronics (FSO) or the Damoclès pod. For the SBU-38 AASM, the Damoclès is considered an excellent coordinates extraction sensor. From the cockpit, we can also determine the terminal angle-of-attack in relation to the target. "Over the last twenty years, the nature of warfare has changed completely: the enemy is more diffuse and the risks of collateral damage a major concern. So we need new systems that reduce detection and allow us to engage several targets simultaneously. The AASM full meets these requirements for our operations in Libya, since it can be used not only for symmetrical combat, but also for asymmetrical combat as well as guerrilla operations”.

Beautifull video of the Rafale solo Display

Very nice footage from the Saint Dizier (June 18-19th) and Luxeuil (July 02-03rd) Air shows by Rafaletigre1.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SP's Aviation, A fighter pilot's dream

Sp's Aviation has released a 5 pages article about the Rafale by Air Marshal B.K. Pandey.

[...] Dassault Rafale is the first omnirole combat aircraft by design. It has the capability to carry out different complex combat assignments during the same sortie, be it ground attack, beyond visual range (BVR), air-to-air combat or interceptions. Ascion of the Mirage family the Rafale from Dassault Aviation of France is the latest and the most potent twin-engine combat platform to burst on the military aviation scene at the dawn of the 21st century.[...]

Full article can be downloaded here (p.22-26)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

UAE, talks are progressing French Defense Minister says

Gerard Longuet (left) talks with Dassault CEO at last Paris air show
Reuters reports that the negociations between France and the UAE to buy the Rafale are progressing. One main point would be that the UAE would no longer require the 9T engine whose developpement would have increased the jet's cost significantly.

According to French Defense Minister, Gerard Longuet, "The United Arab Emirates is France's best bet in the short term for clinching an export deal for Dassault Aviation's Rafale fighter jet [...] the UAE are no longer demanding a more powerful engine, previously a condition for a deal.The Rafale airstrikes in Libya had helped sway the Emirati government.[...] The operational and multi-role capacities of the Rafale are being proven on a daily basis with these strikes,[...] The Libyan conflict is a clear demonstration that the current engine capacity is sufficient." he said. 

Earlier this month Defense News reported rumors about talks between the UAE and Lockheed Martin for the purchase of more F-16E bk60, presumably instead of  the Rafale which was said to be too expensive.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bastille day, the aerial parade

For those who have missed it last thursday, here is the video of the Bastille day aerial parade over the Champs Elysées, Paris.
6 Rafale were flying this year.

L'intégrale du défilé du 14 juillet 2011 par ministeredeladefense

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rafale web albums

© Marine Nationale - MP MAUPILE

The Libyan campaign web album is updated on a regular basis, don't forget to check it from time to time. Here are a few examples of what has been added recently

Rafale Libyan Campaign (215 pictures)

© Marine Nationale - MP MAUPILE

© Marine Nationale - Cyril Davesne

© SIRPA Air - R. Nicolas-Nelson

Other albums :

Le Bourget 2011 (46 pictures)
Best Of Saint Dizier Air Show 2011 (24 pictures)
Brazil, Cruzex 2010 (135 pictures)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MMRCA, India clears Mirage upgrade deal

According to Livefist, the long awaited deal to upgrade the 52 IAF Mirage 2000 to the dash 5mk2/9 standard would have been cleared by the Indian Government. The upgrade should include the Thales RDY-2 Radar but also a new modular processing unit and  Mica EM/IR missiles (among other high tech items). It is worth noting that the avionics and weapon package of this deal may share some common elements with the Rafale proposal for the MMRCA. Whether it will favour (or not) the Rafale is, however, difficult to assess.

Picture : French Mirage 2000-5. The Indian version should be far more advanced and very close to the UAE "-9" version

Also read : India's Mirage upgrade: a prelude to a Rafale MMRCA win?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kuwait, Rafale deal is an option, French ambassador said

Monday 11th 2011, the French Ambassador to Kuwait, Nada Yafi, said that the Rafale deal is not finalized yet :

[...]"Kuwait wants to assess the group of fighter jets and it has not yet finished, but the evaluation of Rafale seemed satisfactory in all aspects especially from the experts side," she said, asserting that it is Kuwait's right to asses other jets too. 
Yafi announced that at the end of this month a special French envoy headed by of the French president will be visiting Kuwait in the context of a Gulf Tour to discuss with the supreme Kuwaiti authorities many affairs such as the Deauville Partnership
Yafi also revealed that the French Foreign Minster Alain Juppe will be visiting Kuwait to chair the ministerial conference of the Future Forum with his counterpart Shiek Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. 

Libya, Rafale to operate from Sigonella Air Base

Air&Cosmos reveals that 5 Rafale (4 B and 1 C) has been transfered, last weekend, from the Solenzara Air Base (Corsica, France) to Sigonella Air Base (Sicilia, Italy).
The Italian AB is at about 550 km from Tripoli compared to 1080 km for Solenzara. This should save about 1 hour of transit for each sortie.
According to Air&Cosmos those Rafale will mainly conduct Recce missions. Data receiving stations dedicated to the Reco-NG pod have also been installed at Sigonella.
A French Air Force Rafale arrives at Sigonella

Rafale picture of the day

A very nice picture by Cyril2 from Pics-Aeronefs : 2 Mirage F1 CR in close formation with a Rafale (B?) flying over the Reims Air Base on July 7th 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

MMRCA, Admiral Arun Prakash analysis of Indian military procurements

An extensive and very interesting Analysis of past and current Indian defense procurements can be read on LiveFist.

Admiral Arun Prakash especially focus on the fact that india is still very dependent on foreign sources for military hardware despite many attempts to aquire new technologies through transfer contracts. So far, the technology transfers conceded by foreign defense companies have been very desapointing :

[...] For far too long, have Indian defence PSUs claimed “transfer of technology” when they were only assembling components received from abroad using “screwdriver technology”. For the MMRCA offsets to be beneficial to India, they must be selectively chosen to fill known gaps in key technologies or provide high-end production-engineering skills lacking in our aerospace industry today. [...] 

As far as the Rafale is concerned we can quote 2 sentences :

[...] Having flown both the F/A-18 and the Rafale, I can say that while the former would certainly have met all the IAF requirements competently and economically, the breathtaking performance of the latter leaves one in no doubt that it is a “generation-next” machine. The Eurofighter Typhoon, by all accounts, is equally impressive.[...] comment.

[...] the line-up, in ascending order of price, shown in parenthesis, is as follows: MiG-35 ($ 45 m), F-16 ($60 m), F/A-18 ($60.5 m), Gripen ($82.2 m), Rafale ($ 85.5 m) and Typhoon ($124 m). [...]

It is difficult to know if the prices of this list can be directly compared. However, given they are more or less acurate, they reveal that the Gripen NG price would be very close to the Rafale. Conversely the Typhoon is quoted 45% higher which is a huge gap.
Interestingly, both the F-16IN and F-18E would have the same price despite being in 2 different weight class. It is also worth noting that they are 42% less expensive than the Rafale, which is exactly  the current Euro/dollar ratio. Once again, it would prove that the US aircraft prices are artificially low only due to an underestimated dollar value.

FX-2, no decision before 2012

July 9th 2011, Brazilian defense Minister Nelson Jobim has confirmed during an economical forum in Aix en Provence, France, that the FX-2 decision is delayed until early 2012.

"We will go to examine it into the beginning of next year. At the moment, we are only focused on the domestic agenda," Jobim said

Besides the fact that Brazil is currently affected by short term economical issues delaying military expense, there are also rumors about a possible acquisition of second hand aircrafts to replace the FX-2 fighter jets. Inded UAE Mirage 2000-9, which are almost new, could be a possible solution for Brazil.

source :

Libya, CdG crew's postcard

June 30th 2011, it's traditionnal for aircraft carrier long operational deployments : the crew meet on the deck in order to form the name of the current operation (HARMATTAN) with giant human letters. It's some kind of giant postcard sent to their family and those who are supporting them. It is also a way to mark their engagement in the French Aircraft carriers history.

The CdG has logged it's 220th day at sea in 9 months meaning that it has been sailing 80% of the time since october 2010

Source : Cols Bleus 2975

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rafale A, first flight 25th anniversary

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Rafale A first flight.
The Plane took off from the Istres Air Base, piloted By Dassault test pilot Guy Mitaux-Maurouard on July 4th 1986. During this flight, which lasted 1 hour, the Rafale A reached mach 1.32, at 36,000 ft, performing maneuvers up to 5G.

Guy Mitaux-Maurouard talking about this day :
"The first Rafale flight for me... well, my first impression was like being back some years ago, during my first solo the military Air school. It was a small twin seater prop-plane and the second seat was empty... Here I was, alone. It was exactly that kind of impression : You're alone, get your ass in gear !
Except that, in a Rafale, during its maiden flight, you are alone in the plane, but with a lot of people behind you: All the engineers who have designed the aircraft systems, checking every parameters and alarms, vibrations and abnormal heating... Eventually, the pilot is more at ease than all these people !

Once the aircraft [Rafale] was in the air... ha ! , It was different ! The plane was on a rail !"

At the end of the flight, after a landing course of no more than 500m, Mitaux declared to Jean-Claude Hironde, Dassault technical director : " It's worked as in the books !"

Nowadays, this beautifull white bird is preserved at the Air&Space museum at Le Bourget airfield near Paris. It has been completely restored and is displayed next to its big brother, the Mirage 4000.

Sources :
Dassault Aviation - Memoires, Guy Mitaux-Maurouard
Rafale, la veritable histoire - Germain Chambost
Rafale, les ailes du futur - François Robineau

Video, AASM laser trial on a fast moving target

Range 15km
off axis shooting angle : 90°
Stricking angle : 20°
target speed : 80km/h

Also read : Laser AASM, first strike on a fast moving target

Libya, French Forces sortie stats since April 2011

After 3 months of non-stop air operation a quick look at the stat published each week by the French MoD shows that more that 3000 sorties have been performed by the French aircrafts (all types) since the begining of the conflict.

The sorties distribution is the following (Rafale participation in the mission in bold) :

  • CAS and interdiction : 50%
  • Reconnaissance : 21%
  • Air Defense : 9%
  • AWACS : 5%
  • Air Refueling : 11%
  • GAM (Helicopter force) : 4% (the low figure is due to the fact that helicopters have only been deployed for one month)

The sortie rate has been very stable with an average of 220 sorties each week increasing to more than 230 since the Gazelle and Tigers are involved.
The CAS mission is also increasing for the last 3 weeks.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Le Bourget 2011, General Longuet interview about Rafale campaign in Libya

Which are the external operations the Rafale is engaged in ?

The most important is the Libyan operation which have demonstrated the quality of the [Rafale] fighter jet and the relevence of the versatility choice made for the Rafale. This is essential, we have a plane that has demonstrated the range of its operational flexibility and more over, it's ability to adapt to a polical context evolving constantly.

So the Rafale is a fully omnirole aircraft ?

Correct, The plane was flying above [the Libyan] theater 1 hour and a half after the political decision was acted. We were entering first, facing a Libyan Air Force which potential was not fully known and with a potential [SAM] missile threat. So a classic mission during which the Rafale proved its capacity to switch to Close Air Support of the Libyan insurgent defending Bengazi. That was the demonstration of the Rafale actual versatility.

It happens that a Rafale is tasked for a specific mission and is eventually redirected to another mission ?

Absolutely,  the flexibility is true for the aircraft but also for the crew which master the whole spectrum of the plane capabilities. I would like to had that it is not only a plane, it is also a system, integrated in a data exchange network. For instance, the Recce pod captures targets, instantly transmit the data to a strike fighter that will identify and destroy the target.

Thanks to the libyan campaign, the Rafale is now combat proven ?

Well it was already "combat proven" due to several deployements in Afghanistan. During the Libyan campaign the Rafale has proved its versatility. When some of our allies need 2 or 3 different planes for different mission, we can perform all missions with only one aircraft type. By the way, I've been told by our airmen that the Rafale has  imppressed. That's very favourable showcase for the export market.

Do you really think it will affect the export sales ?

Absolutely, we have observed the aircraft quality, its ability to hold a day and night tempo, to be adaptable and flexible. Another important point is that we could think that this "high tech" combat aircraft would be fragile. That's not the case. It is very reliable, there is no major failure and almost 100% of the shots have been successful. As a matter of fact, it has also meet its reliability requirement.

So, reliability and ability to perform all missions from the pinpoint stike on a pickup to the destruction of Air defense sites... well, all the spectrum... including reconnaissance... everything: This has been the most striking demonstration of the Rafale capabilities.

Source : Dassault Aviation

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In the Press, Rafale in Combat

Avionics magazine has published an extensive article about the Rafale program status and current missions in Libya.

"The French fighter jet, equipped with imaging processing, munition and targeting pods, demonstrates its power in missions over Libya" [...]

Read and download the full article here (Article by Jean-Michel Guhl)

Friday, July 1, 2011

First woman Rafale pilot

Ok, that's not funny :) (besides, that's a Rafale M, not a B/C)
Air & Cosmos reveals that the first woman Rafale pilot will begin her training on the type in September. (There are already several women pilots in the French Air Force flying Mirage 2000 and Mirage F1).

We wish her good luck !

Libya, Rafale fighters make emergency landing in Malta

2 Rafale B have made an emergency landing in Malta because of an unknown technical problem on one of them.
Rafale fighters make emergency landing -

That's the second time a Rafale lands comes to Malta as a Rafale M also made a simulated approach on the Island on June 8th

Le Bourget 2011, Rafale album

Pictures of various Rafale related subjects taken during the last Paris air show last week.