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Phelan M, Nov-2003. Forward Roles, Flight International

Phelan M, Nov-2003. Forward Roles, Flight International

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Aug 21, 2012
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FORWARDROLES
The next version of the Dassault Rafale fighter
is
to bedelivered next year - and its versatility
could
be astepping stone to extending the definition of multirole
MICHAEL PHELAN / PARIS AND ISTRES
D
assault Aviation is preparing todeliver the first F2-standardRafale fighters next year. Thenew version will finally begin tocapture some of the spirit of theoriginal 'omnirole' fighter concept thatwas intended to replace almost the entirecombat aircraft inventory of the French airforce and navy.
Yves
Robins, Dassault Aviation vice-president international relations, defence,defines omnirole as multirole pushed tothe extreme. "It has the ability to simultaneously fulfil air dominance, ground attackand reconnaissance roles, with
a
minimumof difference between land-based and carrier-based versions," he says.That full capability is some years away,however. The Rafales currently in serviceare Fl standard - air-to-air capable only -and the F2s being tested at Dassault'sIstres, France, test facility will add air-to-ground capability. It will only be with theF3 standard, due to enter service in 2007,that the Rafale will combine reconnaissance, truly independent radar terrain following, and conventional/nuclear deepstrike capabilities, and really begin toshoulder out the other types.Born of French dissatisfaction with thedirection European fighter development
was
taking post-Panavia Tornado, the Rafalewas developed indigenously as a replacement for such diverse French air force andnavy types as the air-defence Vought F-8Crusader, ground-attack Sepecat Jaguar andDassault Super Etendard, reconnaissance/strike Dassault Mirage IV, multirole MirageFl, and eventually
all
Mirage
2000
variants,including the air-to-air 2000C, strike 2000Dand nuclear strike 2000N.With its Crusaders most urgently inneed of replacement, the navy
was
the firstto receive the Rafale - the Fl standard single-seat Rafale M - from 2001. Ten of the
Dassault'sIstres flighttest group ispreparingfor Scalp EGlive firingsfrom theRafale
type form the first operational Rafalesquadron aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Charles de
Gaulle,
while two Fl-standard, two-seat Rafale Bs and one single-seat Rafale
C
are with the air force's testand evaluation unit.The French forces plan to operate 294Rafales. The navy is to take 60, around 40of which will be in the two-seat Rafale Nconfiguration, while the air force requires234, of which over half will be two-seatRafale
Bs.
The navy had planned to take all60 of its aircraft as single seaters, but experience in recent conflicts showed the benefits of two-crew operation."It's more a case of playing it safe thanhigh pilot workload," according toClaude Martin, Dassault Aviation testpilot. "Two heads are always better thanone in tough situations."The Rafale's two-seat configuration isdifferent from that of earlier Dassault fighters in that the two cockpits are identicalbut independent. "All functions can beperformed from either cockpit, but the displays can be manipulated independently,so each crew member can perform differ-
Br
T
F v
iv fl
Mw
*MM--M
fW
'feudal
ent tasks simultaneously," Martin -says.With airframe deliveries not expected toexceed
15
each year, and the type destinedto be France's prime combat platform untilat least 2040, Dassault will have plenty oftime to incorporate upgrades - and thoseplanned so far will be fully retrofittable toall aircraft. The
F2
standard
is
due for delivery to the navy and air force next year, withthe air force achieving operational capability of
its
first squadron in early 2005.
Intensive testing
Six of the aircraft are under test at Istres,and Patrick Castagnos, Dassault Aviationvice-president flight test, says the next fewmonths will involve intensive testing andqualification of the F2's software andweapon systems.The variant introduces air-to-groundattack capabilities, and is armed with theMBDA Scalp EG long-range cruise missile,the AASM rocket-boosted precision-guidedbomb, and the
MBDA
Mica infrared air-to-air missile. The
F2
includes the Thales frontsector Optronics
(FSO)
forward- looking sensor system, which includes a
60°
cone of
TV
coverage and
180°
frontal coverage using
IR.
The
FSO
provides covert air and ground target acquisition and tracking,
as
well
as
providing the pilot with a visual image of theprimary target. Additional IR coverage canbe obtained using the seekers on theattached Mica missiles.
A
three-dimensional digital terrain data-
48 18-24 NOVEMBER 2003
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL
 
Francos Rafsl©
base enables automated terrain-followingduring low-altitude flight and will beupgraded to 3D terrain-mapping radar inthe F3 standard Rafale. The F2's Link 16datalink enables secure communicationwith other airborne and ground-basedassets, providing information about theaircraft's status and receiving additional situational awareness information to add tothat from its own sensors.With so much information at its disposal, the aircraft requires a powerfulprocessor to combine the inputs into a simple pilot display. Rafale's modular data processing unit (MPDU) consists of up to 18line-replaceable modules, each of whichhas 50 times the processing power of theMirage 2000-5's
XRI
computer. The MPDUintegrates data from the FSO, datalink,Thales RBE2 electronically scanning radarand MBDA/Thales Spectra electronic warfare system, displaying each threat or ally
as
a single icon on the pilot's eye-level display.The
F3
standard Rafale will complete theplanned French development of the aircraft,adding reconnaissance capability, 3D terrain-mapping radar for fully independentautonomous terrain following, and MBDAAM39 Exocet and second-generationnuclear-capable
ASMP
air-launched missile.Further developments are being proposed, either for the French forces or forexport customers, including more powerful Snecma
M88
engines for improved performance, integration of the MBDA
Rafale's 14hardpointsinclude fivewet pointsand provisionfor theDamocleslaserdesignatortargeting pod
Meteor beyond-visual-range AAM, andexpansion of the RBE2 radar's scanningcone from 60° to 70', allowing turns of upto
SSg
in terrain-following mode.Dassault says the Rafale was designedfrom the outset to be operated from carriers as well as from land, highlighting thisas a key driver in keeping support costsdown through volume. "Adapting a land-based aircraft for carrier operations isalways problematic," says Martin. "Thebaseline Rafale is designed for carriers,and we can then take weight out for theland-based version's landing gear," headds. The air force Rafales will also lackthe M and N variants' aerial buddy-refuelling capability.
Lower support burden
Dassault is targeting a 20% lower supportburden than for the Mirage 2000. Robinsdescribes the Mirage 2000's structure asbeing "fatigue-free", and the philosophyhas been carried through to the Rafale, butwithout the need for onboard strain gaugesto monitor structuralloads.
"We use a
singlecentral load factor measurement and applyit to our digital models of the structure. Ourfirst structural fatigue checks will be after
5,000h,
as for the Mirage 2000 - but weexpect to push that out to about
7,000h
eventually," he says.Last year's Indian Ocean deployment ofthe first Rafale
M
squadron on the
Charlesde Gaulle
achieved over
60%
aircraft availability despite the first deployment beingso far from home. For further trimming ofoperational support requirements, theRafale uses onboard oxygen and cryogenicgeneration systems and a central weaponsarming switch, eliminating the need forground safety pins and reducing turnaround time.The Rafale's maintenance philosophyhinges on modular replaceable components- even the M88 turbofans are composed of21 modules that are interchangeable without the need for full balancing and recali-bration. Throughout its life, the aircraftshould never leave its operational base formaintenance reasons, says Dassault.The six Rafales at Istres include the first
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL 18-24
NOVEMBER 2003
49

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