Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Damocles XF dropped, PDL NG for 2018

Air & Cosmos N°2305 gave us two pages about the future of designation pods for Rafale.

First of all, Damocles XF (and improved Damocles with a TV channel) is dropped.

Then, it's all about the PDL NG (Pod de Désignation Laser Nouvelle Génération = New Generation Laser Designation Pod).

We learn that France will, alone, invest € 450 millions for 45 pods which will equip both Mirage 2000D and Rafale.
While Damocles only used a 320x240 IR sensor, the PDL NG will use a  640x520 matrix. This resolution will be doubled by a micro-scanning technique, a solution preferred to a 1024 pixels wide matrix.
Of course, this IR sensor will be complemented by a TV channel for daylight operations and identification of very small targets (something which lacked with the Damocles too).

Another feature will be an improved geolocalization using GPS + INS (from the airplane) for near-metric accuracy.  Damocles already proposed such a function, but not as accurate as the AASM.

The RCS (radar cross section) of the pod will be reduced.

Last but not least, the PDL NG will be carrier compatible.

Qatar set to replace its Mirage 2000-5 with Rafale ?

We know for a while that Qatar is interested in buying new fighters to replace its Mirage 2000-5 delivered in 1997.

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

According to La Tribune today, Rafale would be well positionned if required, because :
  • Qatar has given its word to replace its Mirage with Rafale ;
  • Rafale has been very successful during the hot weather trials (50°C) conducted earlier (with live AASM firing and Qatar pilots in the back seat), contrary to F-15 and F-18.

The problem is "when ?" While some sources indicated that Qatar could select  a type before the end of the year, some others thinks that Qatar doesn't need to replace the Mirage right now. A situation which looks similar to the UAE's.

Of course, there are two other types that Qatar will evaluate before : Eurofighter Typhoon and F-16b50/52.
Jon Lake told us in April that the evaluation of Typhoon had been cancelled in April 2011 (lybian operations), so, they still have to do it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Future Spectra

In a previous issue (n°2329 -5th october), A&C reveals the forthcoming introduction of GaN on a new Spectra prototype in 2014.


Why now ? Next year, a new production line should be qualified by UMS for GaN semi conductors working in X-band. Up to now, they only produced S-band components.

The current Spectra (and the coming RBE-2 AA) uses GaAs components, which are already pushed to their upper limit. Compared with this, GaN should be 2 to 5 times more powerful, and also works in wider bandwidth, and better efficiency.

Because the production will progressively improve with time, the first application for Rafale will be the development of a new Spectra prototype in 2014 (PEA Incas).

And, later, maybe, new conformal arrays for the radar...

Future Rafale

Air & Cosmos revealed three days ago the new roadmap for the next software update of Rafale.

This will be standard F3-R and is planned for 2018 with :
  • Meteor ;
  • PDL-NG targeting pod (a replacement for Damocles) ;
  • IFF Mode 5/S ;
  • improved Link16 ;
  • Improved SPECTRA ;
  • Improved capabilities for RECO-NG pod (inspired by the intervention in Lybia) ;
  • Improved air-to-ground fire control (inspired by the intervention in Lybia).
 All the fleet will be retrofitted.

2nd half of October news

October 2012 has been a nice month in the Rafale life.

Firstly, the C137 AESA has been delivered and has started operational experimentation.

Secondly, Rafale started experimenting the Meteor. Only separation trials for now. France had ordered 200 Meteor in December 2010, and will introduce it in operational service in 2018.
All pictures provided by DGA

 Reminder : in 2005, Rafale already demonstrated its capability to take off and land on its carrier while bringing the Meteor.

Thirdly, we learnt that the first Indian airbase (thanks to the New Indian Express) to be equipped with Rafale will be the Alamba AFB, currently using Jaguar and MiG-21.

The last point of this post is less positive though : our current MoD Le Drian, back from UAE indicated that the Rafale would have to wait. No need to compromise the UAE-France relation with this contract. Whole story here : Le Parisien.
Note that UAE isn't in a hurry to replace the already very good Mirage 2000-9.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

AESA experimentation news

Olivier Fourt, from RFI, has interviewed the team which will conduct experimentations in Mont-de-Marsan.

The interview reveals that the C137 will not keep its array : it will be unplugged to equip a two seater.

Interesting points (though only little is really new) :
  • range doubled (to about 200 km), compatible with the Meteor ;
  • submetric SAR imagery ;
  • eased maintainability ;
  • independent modules allow to assign them to different tasks ;
  • softwares automatically recognize the array which is totally plug-and-play ;
  • only 5 to 6 hours to unplug and re-plug the AESA array on another Rafale (even a PESA) ;
  • a few AESA per squadron may be enough, provided we use them for air superiority for example (AESA flying ahead, PESA behind...).

PS : enjoy the beautiful pictures by A. Février here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

IAF 80th anniversary...

...how is it related to Rafale ?

Well, easy answer : Rafale International have published their wishes in Indian newspapers :

Congratulations to one of the world's widely respected air force on its 80th year

This ad reminds us that India has been flying fighters designed by French (at least partially) for 60 years, starting with the Toofani (Ouragan), Mytere IV,  Alizé, Jaguar and Mirage 2000.

 Interestingly, the picture shows a Rafale with four Meteor.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First European production AESA fighter delivered

Today, October the 2nd of 2012, Dassault has delivered the Rafale C137 to the DGA. The aircraft should arrive in Mont-de-Marsan (CEAM) soon.

The C137 is the first production Rafale equipped with a production RBE-2 AA (AESA). It is also the first of a kind in Europe. It is also equipped with the brand new FSO and the new DDM-NG.

This is the result of a more than 10 years sustained R&D efforts. The aircraft should undergo an 18 months period of tests and experimentations (discovery of new possibilities) before entering operational service.

Source : DSI Presse

edit, video of the C137 rool out :