Friday, June 19, 2015

Paris Air show, Rafale static display and testbed

Besides the Rafale C performing the solo display, 3 other Rafale can be seen on the static display :

On Dassault static display:
  • The Rafale M42 with the deadly 4 Meteor / 4 Mica Air to Air loadout + an additional Exocet Missile
  • The Rafale C131 with an assymetrical GBU-24 / 3 AASM loadout + reco NG pod
On DGA static display:
  • A Rafale C with 6 laser AASM
Also present are the Mirage 2000D #676 and the "ABE-NG" testbed based on a Fokker 100. The Mirage should perform the initial trials of the new Thal├Ęs Talios pod while the Fokker will replace the 3 Mystere XX for the Rafale equipment trials. It took 5 years for the French company Sabena to modify this Fokker 100. The early field tests should start in early 2016 with the IFF-NG and new communication systems for the Rafale.
The ABE-NG features a reinforced front section able to carry 500 Kg of equipment like the RBE-2 AESA radar. The lower center fuselage can sustain a 1 tonne loadout  and the wings have also been strengthened to carry Mica and Meteor Air to Air missiles. However, no missile can be fired as it is not the purpose of this aircraft.
Although it will primarily be used to test Rafale equipments, the aircraft is completely modular and can be adaped to assess non Rafale systems as well. Each electronic bay can be sent directly to the manufacturer (they were designed to go through the Fokker main door) so that it can prepare the setup to be tested in its own facility. The bays are on the right side of the deck and 4 operator consoles are available on the left. The right seat of the cockpit can also be used to control external load (such as pods) thanks to a dedicated joystick and display. Moreover, 15 additionnal passenger seats are located at the back of the plane.




This project was driven by cost efficiency: this is one of the reasons why Sabena selected  the Fokker 100, a sturdy and easy to maintain air liner with twice the payload, more electric power and cooling capacity than the small Dassault bizzjet. Even if it is not produced anymore, the type is quite recent (late 80ies) and there is still a fleet of 160 aircrafts operated by various airlines around the world. This will insure easy support and maintenance compare to the ageing Mystere XX.

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