Over the last decades, air forces have always been the first military component engaged in all crises or conflicts, from the Falklands to the Gulf, from Bosnia to Kosovo, from Afghanistan to Libya, and more recently Mali, the Central African Republic and Iraq.
Military aviation is undoubtedly the most strategic weapon today, both in terms of combat effectiveness and of critical technologies implemented. In modern warfare, air dominance from day one is a must, so that air-to-ground and air-to-sea operations can be conducted safely and efficiently. The decisive place of the air component in modern warfare is demonstrated by the defense strategies decided by those nations who want to keep a leading role on the world stage. The RAFALE, with its “OMNIROLE” capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments.
It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft. The RAFALE participates in permanent “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA) / air-defense / air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions, deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties and nuclear deterrence duties.
Lessons learned from the latest conflicts where air power was used, can be summarized into four overarching expectations about weapon systems by political decision makers:
The “OMNIROLE” RAFALE combines all these advantages: it is relevant against both traditional and asymmetrical threats, it addresses the emerging needs of the armed forces in a changing geopolitical context, and it remains at the forefront of technical innovation.
Thanks to its versatility, its adaptability and its ability to meet all air mission requirements, the RAFALE is the “poster child” transformational fighter which provides a way forward to air forces confronted to the requirement of doing “more” with “less”, in an ever-changing strategic and economic environment.
Of a moderate size, yet extremely powerful, superbly agile and very discrete, the latest type of combat aircraft from DASSAULT AVIATION does not only integrate the largest and most modern range of sensors, it also multiplies their efficiency with a technological breakthrough, the “multi-sensor data fusion”.
Omnirole by design
When the RAFALE programme was launched, the French Air Force and French Navy published a joint requirement for an omnirole aircraft that would have to replace the seven types of combat aircraft then in operation.
The new aircraft would have to be able to carry out a very wide range of missions:
A fully optimized airframe
The RAFALE, a fully “OMNIROLE” fighter, is available in three variants:
All three variants share a common airframe and a common mission system, the differences between naval and land versions being mainly limited to the undercarriage and to the arresting hook.
The RAFALE features a delta wing with close-coupled canards. In-house research in computational fluid dynamics has shown the specific benefits of close coupling between the wings and the canards: it ensures a wide range of centre of gravity positions for all flight conditions, as well as excellent handling throughout the whole flight envelope. The close-coupled canards / delta wing configuration is key to the combat performance of the RAFALE: even at high angle-of-attack, it remains fully agile, and its range performance in strike missions with heavy weapon loads is unmatched for such a compact design. Close-coupled delta-canard wing offers significantly higher maximum lift coefficient and positive trim lift on all control surfaces. Further, canards and wing control surfaces overlap in their functionality, unlike with horizontal tail configuration, leading to improved damage resistance. Rafale’s close-coupled canards will allow purely aerodynamic spin recovery. Also Rafale’s close coupled canards will reduce pressure point shift with increased speed, allowing Rafale to remain aerodynamically unstable at higher speeds than non-canard configuration would.
The aircrafts a close-coupled design with two large canards, four leading-edge slats, four trailing elevons and one rudder to optimize lift/drag and reduce side-slip in all flight phases. The hydraulic system powering the flying controls operates at over 345bar (5,000lb/in2).
The aircraft is capable of withstanding from −3.6g to 9g (10.5g on Rafale solo display and a maximum of 11g can be reached in case of emergency). The Digital Fly by wire Control System is a "g" demand system with +9.0g/29° angle of attack (AoA) limit in air-to-air mode and +5.5g/20° AoA limit in both of the two air-to-ground/heavy stores modes (ST1 and ST2) to cater for forward or aft centre of gravity. The aircraft continuously "recognises" the load it carries, but indicates and leaves the final DFCS mode selection to the pilot. Minus g limit in all modes is -3.2.The Rafale is an aerodynamically unstable aircraft and uses digital fly-by-wire flight controls to artificially enforce and maintain stability. The aircraft's canards also act to reduce the minimum landing speed to 115 knots (213 km/h; 132 mph); while in flight, airspeeds as low as 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) have been observed during training missions. According to simulations by Dassault, the Rafale has sufficient low speed performance to operate from STOBAR-configured aircraft carriers, and can take off using a ski-jump with no modifications.
The Dassault Rafale is a relatively small, light airplane. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that its wing loading ratio (the ratio of its weight compared to its wing space) is just 306 kg/sq m, the second lowest ratio on the market after the JAS-39 Gripen. Its combat radius is also impressive – 1,852 kilometers. The Rafale also has an excellent rate of climb – 304 m/s, i.e. 60,000 ft/min. This means the plane can climb to its service ceiling (55,000 ft) in a minute. Dassault Rafale has instantaneous turn rate of 30 deg/s, sustained turn rate of 24 deg/s and roll rate of 290 deg/s.
Flight Control Systems
An advanced digital “Fly-by-Wire” (FBW) Flight Control System (FCS) provides for longitudinal stability and superior handling performance. The FCS is quadruple redundant with three digital channels and one separately designed analogue channel, with no mechanical back-up: design independence between channels is key to avoiding simultaneous anomalies on all channels.
The Flight Control System of the RAFALE attains the highest level of flight safety by leveraging on the extensive experience of DASSAULT AVIATION in Fly-by-Wire technology: over one million flight hours without a single accident caused by the FCS. The RAFALE is safe and easy to fly in all flight regimes, featuring the same precise, yet benign handling performance in all load-out configurations throughout the flight envelope.
The flight control system of the RAFALE offers auto flight in terrain following mode in all weather conditions, allowing the RAFALE to fly unobserved in the opponent’s airspace: an important survivability factor in a high threat environment.
Thanks to the DASSAULTs unique know-how in finite element modeling, the RAFALE airframe fatigue is monitored with the same gauge-free concept which has proved its worth on the MIRAGE 2000 fleet. Composite materials are extensively used in the RAFALE and they account for 70% of the wetted area. They also account for the 40% increase in the max take-off weight to empty weight ratio compared with traditional airframes built of aluminium and titanium.
The M88 – a new generation engine
The M88-2 is a new-generation turbofan engine offering a high thrust-to-weight ratio with easy maintainability, high despatch reliability and lower operating costs. The M88-2 incorporates advanced technologies such as integrally bladed compressor disks (“blisks”), a low-pollution combustor with smoke-free emissions, single-crystal high-pressure turbine blades, ceramic coatings, and composite materials.
The M88-2 power plant is rated at 10,971 lbs dry and 16,620 lbs with afterburner. It is equipped with redundant “Full Authority Digital Engine Control” (FADEC), which provides for carefree engine handling anywhere in the flight envelope: the throttle can be slammed from combat power to idle and back to combat power again, with less than three seconds from idle to full afterburner. The aircraft has a fixed flight refuelling probe and its canards and elevons operate in conjunction to act as a fully variable airbrake, with both features intended to save weight. Maximum speed is M1.8/750kt (1,390km/h), service ceiling 55,000ft (16,800m), and typical approach speed at mid-weight (15t) and 16° AoA an indicated 125kt.Powerful carbon brakes allow for landing distances as short as 450m without the need for a brake parachute.
Launched in 2008, the M88 TCO (“Total Cost of Ownership”) programme was initiated to further improve engine durability and bring support costs down. Capitalizing on the ECO project, SNECMA was able to upgrade the high-pressure compressor and the high-pressure turbine of the M88-2: cooling is ameliorated and stronger components have been introduced, boosting durability by up to 50%. Life expectancy between overhaul has been considerably expanded for a number of modules, helping further minimize the impact of planned maintenance on engine availability. The M88 is the subject of a constant improvement effort by SNECMA, leading to the latest M88-4E version, which builds on the TCO programme. This version, which offers a longer engine life, is now fully operational. Production deliveries began in 2012, and RAFALE aircraft now comes out of the production line fitted with M88-4Es.The Snecma M88 turbofans have been optimized to limit infrared delectability. And it also received Hot Spot treatment, to reduce the InfraRed Signature.
Although not a full-aspect stealth aircraft, the cost of which was viewed as unacceptably excessive, the Rafale was designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature . In order to reduce the RCS, changes from the initial technology demonstrator include a reduction in the size of the tail-fin, fuselage reshaping, repositioning of the engine air inlets underneath the aircraft's wing, and the extensive use of composite materials and serrated patterns for the construction of the trailing edges of the wings and canards. 70% of the Rafale's surface area is composite. Many of the features designed to reduce the Rafale's visibility to threats remain classified. The radar cross section of the airframe has been kept to the lowest possible value by selecting the most adequate outer mold line and materials. Most of the stealth design features are classified, but some of them are clearly visible, such as the serrated patterns on the trailing edge of the wings and canards.
To achieve Stealth Dassault combine four factors:
• RCS reduction of the most reflective parts of the structure
• Development of passive detections
• EW suite capable of jamming and decoying
• Terrain following system
The minimal RCS of Rafale, according to Dassault engineer (1/10~1/20 of Mirage-2000's frontal RCS), should be 0.05 to 0.1 m2 class.
Rafale makes extensive use of radar-absorbent material (RAM) in the form of paints and other materials. RAM forms a saw-toothed pattern on the wing and canard trailing edges, for instance. The aircraft is designed to, so that its untreated radar signature is concentrated in a few strong "spikes," which are then suppressed by the selective use of RAM.
75% of Rafale surface structure and 30% of its mass are made of composites. Besides, the high amount of composites and RAM materials, ducted air intakes, Rafale also has a sawtooth design feature all over the airframe and even in the air intakes. These sawtooth are made of RAM materials and meant to scatter and absorb radar waves. IRST surface of rafale is covered in gold shield which reflects very less radar energy and thus has stealth. The internals of the cockpit are RCS shaped as well as the canopy containing gold and RAM coat on the mounts which reflects very less radar reflection.
Terrain following system
The Rafale is fitted with a multisensory terrain-following system operating at the pilot's choice from the radar or from a digital terrain database: the RBE2 radar can detect even unreported obstruction and the digital terrain database does away with telltale emissions where total covertness is required. There is also a radar altimeter available in nap-of-the-earth flight over water or flat land. Data fusion is part of the system to cross-check the sensors before feeding their data to a flight path computation module whose development has been carried out per the exacting standards of safety-critical engineering.
The terrain-following function integrated with the Rafale's flight control system actually flies the aircraft closer to the ground or the sea than would be reasonable for the crew flying in manual mode - and it does so with a demonstrated safety level even in blind weather. Rafale is designed to fly a terrain-avoidance/threat- avoidance profile at 5.5 g and 100 feet in altitude.
It remains a valuable help to the crew even when flying higher above ground level, allowing them to concentrate on other mission tasks without the burden -and energy consuming anxiety - of maintaining terrain clearance during hi-speed/low-altitude legs. With its high thrust and low wing-loading, the Rafale is equally at ease flying at treetop height: its aerodynamics - delta wing and canards - is ideal for low-level agility and ride quality, and its canard fore-planes do not block downward visibility. Flying low and fast in the clouds then becomes a real option: high altitude SAMs are no longer an issue since you fly under the radar coverage, and short range optically-guided air defenses are powerless against a foe they cannot see. Other short range air defense systems can be dealt with by the Spectra EW suite capable of jamming and decoying. Speed is part of the game too, since air defense engagement zones are dramatically reduced against transonic targets, even in clear weather.
The Rafale core avionics systems employ an integrated modular avionics (IMA), called MDPU (modular data processing unit). This architecture hosts all the main aircraft functions such as the flight management system, data fusion, fire control, and the man-machine interface. The total value of the radar, electronic communications and self-protection equipment is about 30 percent of the cost of the entire aircraft.
The Rafale features an integrated defensive-aids system named SPECTRA, which protects the aircraft against airborne and ground threats, developed as a joint venture between Thales and MBDA. Various methods of detection, jamming, and decoying have been incorporated, and the system has been designed to be highly re-programmable for addressing new threats and incorporating additional sub-systems in the future. Operations over Libya were greatly assisted by SPECTRA, allowing Rafales to perform missions independently from the support of dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) platforms.
The Rafale's ground attack capability is heavily reliant upon sensory targeting pods, such as Thales Optronics's Reco New Generation/Areos reconnaissance pod and Damocles electro-optical/laser designation pod. Together, these systems provide targeting information, enable tactical reconnaissance missions, and are integrated with the Rafale's IMA architecture to provide analysed data feeds to friendly units and ground stations, as well as to the pilot. Damocles provides targeting information to the various armaments carried by the Rafale and is directly integrated with the Rafale's VHF/UHF secure radio to communicate target information with other aircraft. It also performs other key functions such as aerial optical surveillance and is integrated with the navigation system as a FLIR.
Thales' Areos reconnaissance pod is an all-weather; night-and-day-capable reconnaissance system employed on the Rafale, and provides a significantly improved reconnaissance capability over preceding platforms. Areos has been designed to perform reconnaissance under various mission profiles and condition, using multiple day/night sensors and its own independent communications data links
RBE2-AA / AESA – “Active Electronically Scanned Array” radar
The RAFALE is the first operational – and so far, the only – European combat aircraft to use an electronic scanning radar. Developed by THALES, the RBE2 radar has benefited from a massive research effort and from THALES’ unmatched know-how based on past experience. Compared to radars with conventional antennas, unprecedented levels of situational awareness are attained with earlier detection and tracking of multiple targets. With its superior beam agility and its enormous computing power, the RBE2 offers outstanding performance that cannot be replicated by mechanical scanning radars.
In October 2012, the first RAFALE fighter equipped with an “Active Electronically Scanned Array” (AESA) RBE2 radar was delivered to the French MoD. The AESA provides a wide range of functions:
The RBE2-AESA is fully compatible in terms of detection range with the upcoming long range METEOR air-to-air missile. The AESA offers an unprecedented growth-potential for the future. In those situations where discretion becomes the single most important tactical factor, the RAFALE can rely on several other sensor systems. RBE-2 has 120* angular coverage while RBE-2AA (AESA) has 140* angular coverage.
The RBE2-AA radar system is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafale’s RBE2 radar. It replaces the mechanically steered array antenna by electronically steering exerted by up to several thousand of transmit-receive modules which enable maximum performance and versatility as well as enhanced reliability. The radar is using about 1000 GaAs T/R modules and is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar. Active electronic scanning makes it possible to switch radar modes quickly, thereby enabling operational functions to run simultaneously.
Front Sector Optronics – FSO
Developed by THALES, the “Front Sector Optronics” (FSO) system is fully integrated into the aircraft. Operating in the optronic wavelengths, it is immune to radar jamming and it provides covert long-range detection and identification, high resolution angular tracking and laser range-finding for air, sea and ground targets. Using those two optronic channels, the FSO provides day/night, long-range detection, recognition and identification of air, sea and land targets. The FSO does not emit any radiation and is insensitive to jamming. Fully integrated in the aircraft’s nav-attack system, it provides tactical information and target engagement. Its infrared capacities are essential during night flights, in particular for long-range target recognition. The FSO’s powerful TV sensor (cued by the RAFALE’s active and passive sensors) is truly valuable to positively identify targets in situations where a visual contact is required by the rules of engagement.
Front Sector Optronics (FSO) provides a tele-lens picture of the target. It allows target tracking, through IR (Infra-red search and track) and visual sensors: air targets at ranges up to 100 kilometers, surface or sea targets at up to 6 kilometers. The covert approach capability of the FSO is especially valuable in air policing and intercepts, where the TV picture of the target provides early visual identification and detection of suspect manoeuvres. The IR Search and Track channel uses sophisticated processing algorithms for the automatic detection and tracking of airborne threats and targets on the ground.
Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface Tracking
Infrared Search and Track (Growth potential):
Air-to-Air or Air-to-Surface identification and ranging:
Advantages and functions:
Identification and Tracking:
SPECTRA – internal Electronic Warfare suite
SPECTRA -Self-Protection Equipment to Counter Threats for Rafale Aircraft. Jointly developed by THALES and MBDA, the SPECTRA internal “Electronic Warfare” (EW) system is the cornerstone of the RAFALE’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats. It is fully integrated with other systems in the aircraft, and it provides a multi-spectral threat warning capability against hostile radars, missiles and lasers.
The SPECTRA system carries out reliable long-range detection, identification and localization of threats, allowing the pilot to instantly select the most effective defensive measures based on combinations of radar jamming, infrared or radar decoying and evasive maneuvers. The angular localization performance of the SPECTRA sensors makes it possible to accurately locate ground threats in order to avoid them, or to target them for destruction with precision guided munitions. Additionally, SPECTRA fulfils new functions in a combat aircraft, while significantly participating in the determination of the aircraft's tactical situation, and providing the crew with operational advantage by performing accurate threat location. By virtue of its fully passive situational awareness capability, SPECTRA are a major contributor to the low observability concept of Rafale. SPECTRA gives Rafale firing solution with 1* precision at 200 km.
The outstanding capability of SPECTRA regarding airborne threat localization is one of the keys of the RAFALE’s superior situational awareness. Also instrumental in SPECTRA’s performance is a threat library that can be easily defined, integrated and updated on short notice by users in their own country, and in full autonomy. SPECTRA now include a new generation missile warning system that offers increased detection performance against the latest threats.
Using sophisticated techniques, such as interferometry for high precision DOA and passive ranging, digital frequency memory for signal coherency and active phased-array transmitters for maximum effectiveness and covertness, the highly advanced multi-sensors and artificial intelligence data fusion capabilities of SPECTRA provide the Rafale aircraft with the best chance to survive in harsh and lethal environments. The Rafale combat aircraft and the SPECTRA system are fully operational onboard the French Navy's Rafale.
The SPECTRA system consists of two infrared missile warning sensors (Détecteur de Départ Missile Nouvelle Génération). A new generation missile warning system (DDM NG) is currently being developed by MBDA. DDM NG incorporates a new infrared array detector which enhances performance with regard to the range at which a missile firing will be detected (with two sensors, each equipped with a fish-eye lens, DDM NG provides a spherical field of view around the aircraft). The DDM-NG also offers improved rejection of false alarms and gives an angular localization capability which will be compatible with the future use of Directional Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM). DDM-NG has an advanced Missile Warning System covering most of the sphere around the aircraft. In particular it provides the capability to detect Manpad missiles by detecting their burning engines. DDM-NG is a passive, imaging infrared Missile Warning System using the latest advances in sensor technology and processing algorithms. The DDM-NG system’s long detection range, spherical field of view and advanced software provides the highest level of performance.
Thales Group and Dassault Aviation have mentioned stealthy jamming modes for the SPECTRA system, to reduce the aircraft's apparent radar signature. It is not known exactly how this work or even if the capability is fully operational, it employs active cancellation technology, such as has been tested by Thales and MBDA. Active cancellation, a unique EW technique that locates an enemy radar in range and bearing, calculates the scatter that it will receive from the Rafale, and transmits an exact mimic of the aircraft’s actual echo — but one-half wavelength out of phase, so that the radar sees nothing.
SPECTRA is divided into different modules and sensors strategically positioned throughout the airframe to provide all-round coverage. The latest advances in micro-electronic technology have led to a new system which is much lighter, more compact and less demanding than its ancestors in terms of electrical and cooling powers.
Heart of the SPECTRA is the GIC computer (Gestion de l'Interface et CompatibilitÃ©) comprising 3 processors.
DBEM (DÃtection et Brouillage ElectromagnÃtique) - RWR/ECM
DDM (DÃ©tecteur infrarouge de DÃ©part de Missiles) - MLD
Data from all the sensor suites are fused and processed by a central computer, which prioritizes and activates the relevant countermeasures, based upon comparison between the received signals and an onboard threat library. RF jamming is transmitted through active phased array antennas. Employment of this advanced technology allows the jamming signal to be concentrated in the sector where it is needed, not only increasing its effectiveness, but also reducing the probability of intercept by the adversary’s own sensors. In addition to RF jammers, the SPECTRA system incorporates mechanical countermeasures for the dispensing of chaff and decoys that are effective in either electromagnetic or infrared domains. In addition to protecting the Rafale, SPECTRA also has a valuable offensive function. Fused data from the sensors provides threat tracks in the weapon system, which can be displayed in the cockpit. These tracks can be used for targeting in the defense suppression role. Additionally, the data product from the SPECTRA sensors is of very high quality, so that the system can be used for the gathering of Elint (electronic intelligence). Pop-up threats can be compared against the threat library, which can be updated with new information. The product of SPECTRA is also recorded and can be downloaded upon the aircraft’s return to base for more detailed analysis in the ground-based support centre. In this way master threat libraries can be updated, and revised data files produced for subsequent missions.
The net-centric capability of the RAFALE hinges on its open architecture, its data fusion software and its compatibility with a variety of data links, which “plug” the RAFALE into the integrated battlespace .A secure high-rate data link is provided to share data in combined air operations in real time with other aircraft in the formation, airborne and surface command and control centre’s, tactical air controllers or other friendly assets. The Link 16 data link is also available to those customers cleared to operate it. As a net-centric capable asset, the RAFALE can exchange images. The Rover (“Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver”) is an element of this capability which allows aircrews and forward air controllers on the ground to share videos or images of the target. It helps prevent blue-on-blue incidents and collateral damage, a decisive advantage in peacekeeping operations.
DAMOCLES and TALIOS- Laser designation pods
The DAMOCLES laser designator pod designed by THALES brings full day and night laser designation capability to the RAFALE, with metric precision. It permits laser-guided weapons to be delivered at stand-off range and altitude. The IR sensor of the DAMOCLES pod operates in the mid-wave infrared band, allowing it to retain its effectiveness in warm and / or humid conditions. DAMOCLES is interoperable with all existing laser-guided weapons. THALES is now working on TALIOS, a new generation multifunction targeting pod.
TALIOS is an acronym for Targeting Long-range Identification Optronic System. It is follow-on from the company’s Damocles navigation and targeting pod, for which Thales took 120 orders, two-thirds of them for export.
Like other such pods from competing suppliers, operators found a new role for Damocles as an imagery sensor–the so-called Non-Traditional Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) role. Thales says that in designing TALIOS with the latest sensors and stabilization techniques, and by adding a third optical window, it has eliminated some of the shortcomings of previous pods when collecting imagery. For instance, it has a wide field of view, and is able to operate throughout the mission.
Further, Thales claims that TALIOS is the only pod to provide color imagery to NATO standards, while other new features include day or night operation from any altitude; scene-matching; and automatic detection and tracking of mobile targets. TALIOS was previously known as the Pod de Désignation Laser de Nouvelle Génération (PDL-NG). The TALIOS pod is the same shape as Damocles, and approximately the same weight, and can therefore be substituted easily.
AREOS – Recce pod with Quick Analysis Capability
AREOS - Airborne REcce Observation
For both strategic and tactical reconnaissance missions, the French Armed Forces have adopted the new generation THALES AREOS reconnaissance system for the RAFALE.As demonstrated in Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic and Iraq, this high-tech, day and night equipment can be used in a wide range of scenarios, from stand-off distance at high altitude down to high speed and extremely low-level. To shorten the intelligence gathering cycle and accelerate the tempo of operations, the AREOS pod is fitted with a data link which allows high resolution images to be transmitted back to military decision makers in real time. The outstanding performance of AREOS in stand-off reconnaissance makes it a sensor with a true pre-strategic value. It can flight up to 600 knots, and can withstand the shock of carrier operations.
The pod can be operated in fully autonomous mode, without any intervention by the crew. The AREOS Reco NG pod is 4.6 meters long (15 ft.) and weighs 1,100 kg (2,420 lb), making it compatible with the Rafale, as well as the Mirage 2000 if needed. Up front on the pod, the HA/MA (high altitude/medium altitude) optical sensor supports photography at medium range, or even long-range at standoff distance. The AREOS Reco NG offers an identification range of several tens of kilometres – two to three times the range of the Presto pod currently deployed on Mirage F1CR aircraft in Afghanistan.
Located aft in the AREOS pod, the low-altitude sensor supports horizon to horizon photography at an altitude of only 60 meters (200 ft) and very high speeds. The pod operates automatically, whether working in intermittent, zone coverage or terrain-following mode, and always knows its exact position in space, so that it can control the pointing of its optical sensors in both pitch and roll. Its control capability is based on data transmitted by its own inertial reference system, correlated with data from the nav-attack system on the aircraft itself. As soon as the shots are taken, they are automatically overlaid on a digital elevation model, geo-referenced and assembled to provide a complete mosaic of the target. For greater flexibility and coverage, the optics move fore-and-aft within the head of the rotating pod.
The images are then stored on a hard disk in the pod. They can be transmitted to a ground image receiving and processing station in real time, via a high-speed microwave link.The recce pod can also operate in video mode by using successive images and by measuring the displacement of a moving object from one image to another, it can estimate its speed. Battlefield trials based on a hundred test flights enabled the CEAM military aircraft test center to validate the operation of the sensors and their tactical use in conjunction with the Rafale. Test flights covered the full range of scenarios, from conventional to unusual, including tests of opportunity targets involving aircraft being reassigned in the middle of their sortie, through the L16 datalink.
The pod is very easy to operate the crew sees a pointer on their digital map with a mission request. All they have to do is indicate that they accept the mission and slave the pod to the pointer. It’s fast, easy, and there’s no risk of a misunderstanding, since no radio communications are involved.
One of the limitations of imaging-cum-targeting pods has been the need for aircrew to slew the pod-head to the area of interest, and then switch from wide to narrow field-of-view for positive identification and designation of targets. In so doing, situational awareness can be lost.
Thales claims that it has a unique solution, which it has named Permanent View, with geo-referenced imagery from a wide area that is likely to be covered on the mission is stored in the pod. If (for instance) a pilot sees an explosion on the ground or is informed of a target by troops-in-contact, he can arrange to see the surrounding terrain on a cockpit display, with the pod’s field-of-view indicated at center-screen.
This makes slewing the pod easier, and also helps the pilot avoid maneuvers that might temporarily mask the target.
The sheer power of multi-sensor data fusion
In essence, the “multi-sensor data fusion” concept implemented into the RAFALE allows the pilot to act as a true “tactical decision maker”, rather than being only a sensor operator.
PCWRITE - This combination of "letters" appears in the lower left corner of the HLD - Head Level Display, giving a real-time and instant confirmation of which sensors are signaling at that moment. Each letter representing either the RBE2 AESA radar, the Infrared / Laser / TV Front-Sector Optronics (FSO), the internal system of electronic warfare SPECTRA EW, IFF (identification friend-or-foe), and data link are merged into a unified and clear visual symbolism directly on the SA display (situational awareness), and that means keeping the pilot in the situational loop. Rarely (not witnessed at any time during our evaluations) would the pilot ever be unaware of the environment within the 360º “bubble” surrounding the aircraft. The core of these enhanced capabilities of the RAFALE lays in a new “Modular Data processing unit” (MDPU) incorporating “commercial off the shelf” (COTS) elements. It is composed of up to 19 flight “line-replaceable units” (LRUs), with 18 of them individually providing 50 times the processing power of a typical mission computer employed in previous generation fighters. The MDPU is the cornerstone of the upgradeability of the RAFALE. It allows a seamless integration of new weapons and new capabilities to maintain the war fighting relevance of the RAFALE over the years as tactical requirements evolve, and as the computer industry keeps rolling out new generations of processors and software.
The “multi-sensor data fusion” provides a link between the battle-space surrounding the aircraft and the pilot’s brain with its unique ability to grasp the outcome of tactical situations and make sensible decisions. It hinges on the computing power of the MDPU to process data from the RBE2-AESA radar, the “Front Sector Optronic” (FSO) system, the SPECTRA EW system, the IFF, the MICA infrared seekers, and the data link.
Implementation of the “multi-sensor data fusion” into the RAFALE translates into accurate, reliable and strong tracks, uncluttered displays, reduced pilot workload, quicker pilot response, and eventually into increased situational awareness.
It is a full automated process carried out in three steps:
A unique “Man-Machine Interface” (MMI)
DASSAULT AVIATION has developed a very easy to use pilot interface (MMI), combining the “Hands on Throttle and Stick” (HOTAS) control concept with touch screens. It relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment with the following capabilities:
The comprehensive design of the cockpit provides for everything that aircrews can expect from an “OMNIROLE” fighter: a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear, a superior agility, an increased G-protection with 29° tilted seats, and an efficient air conditioning system demonstrated under all climates.
The Rafale's glass cockpit was designed around the principle of data fusion – a central computer intelligently selects and prioritizes information to display to pilots for simpler command and control. The primary flight controls are arranged in a hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)-compatible configuration, with a right-handed side-stick controller and a left-handed throttle. The seat is inclined rearwards at an angle of 29° to improve g-force tolerance during maneuvering and to provide a less restricted external pilot view.An intelligent flight suit worn by the pilot is automatically controlled by the aircraft to counteract in response to calculated g-forces. Dassault also plans to introduce an automatic "g-loc" recovery mode. It has framed canopy providing 360* horizontal and 197,7* vertical visibility, including 16* over the nose, 1,7* over the tail and 27* over the sides, with a maximum of 54* over the side visibility.
Great emphasis has been placed on pilot workload minimization across all operations. Among the features of the highly digitized cockpit is an integrated direct voice input (DVI) system, allowing a range of aircraft functions to be controlled by spoken voice commands, simplifying the pilot's access to many of the controls. Developed by Crouzet, the DVI is capable of managing radio communications and countermeasures systems, the selection of armaments and radar modes, and controlling navigational functions. For safety reasons, DVI is deliberately not employed for safety-critical elements of the aircraft's operation, such as the final release of armaments.
For displaying information gathered from a range of sensors across the aircraft, the cockpit features a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD) system, two head-down flat-panel color multi-function displays (MFDs) as well as a central collimated display. These displays have been strategically placed to minimize pilot distraction from the external environment. Some displays feature a touch interface for ease of Human–computer interaction (HCI). A head-mounted display (HMD) remains to be integrated to take full advantage of its MICA missiles. The cockpit is fully compatible with night vision goggles (NVG).
Entry and exit to the B/C models is via a ground crew-positioned vertical ladder, but the M model has an integral drop-down step. Seat height and rudder pedal adjustment is electric, and the cockpit is a classic fighter "snug" fit, but with all the required flight switches forward of the 3-9 body line. The single throttle and sidestick controller contain over 34 separate switches, many with multifunctions, but the main switches such as airbrake, radio telecommunications, auto pilot and auto throttle were "chunky" and easy to differentiate.
The left and right lateral head-down display screens were touch sensitive with additional L/R rotary and L/R finger switches to designate and control display modes. The head-level display (HLD) allowed for a wide-angle view of the tactical situation and is focused at infinity, so there is no need to refocus your eyes when scanning rapidly between head-up and head-level. Advances in display technology may enable a future HLD to retain the same advantages in a more flat panel display and give more cockpit space.
The wide-angle (30° x 20°) holographic HUD meant the displayed symbology was delightfully uncluttered and sharply focused and could be viewed completely without any head movement away from a design eye point position.
After the sideways-hinged canopy (designed to allow for unrestricted ejection seat removal if required) was closed electrically and with a rapid engine start using the auxiliary power unit completed, it only take about 90s ready to taxi after engine stabilization. Taxi speed can easily control, because the residual ground thrust is limited by keeping both "mini-throttles" (acting as low-pressure cocks) in the "idle" position before setting them to "normal" for take-off. Ground steering was highly accurate and responsive, and the brakes were very smooth and progressive.
Safety of Pilots
Pilot safety is safeguarded by various systems of the Rafale. Starting with the seat, a tilt of 29º distributes the gravitational effect, preventing G-Loc; even at 9Gs that Dassault’s fighter can pull without surpass the operational load factors parameters, in air-to-air mode. The GPW - Ground Proximity Warning, alerts by audible and visual signals, to avoid colliding with the ground when the attitude and altitude of flight correspond to an approach to the surface. If needed, a pre-programmed recovery system can be accessed by the pilot, and in the case of spatial disorientation, there is an "anti-spin” feature even though the Rafale has not shown any tendency to spin, even in the corners of the envelope. Nevertheless, once anti-spin switch is activated, the flight computers redirect the aircraft to a safe flight regime with wings leveled, 5 degrees of climb, and 350 kts. In the absence of reaction by the pilot, GPW will also automatically initiate a maneuver leading back to the leveling of the airplane’s wings and a positive attitude to climb. If Rafale safety features prevents CFIT events (controlled flight into terrain), it is exactly on the low flight (close to the ground - hilly or flat - or water) that the fighter shows one of its greatest strengths. With a unique capability and clever use of Terrain Following mode is much more than an aid to agile piloting at very low altitude.It acts as an extra pilot in the cockpit, since the security in the fidelity of the system - which combines the redundancy of AESA radar and the digital database, leave pilot entirely focused on the tactical objective of the mission: namely, to deliver the "package" in the right place at the right time... and yet, track airborne targets and threats during the raid.
An on-board oxygen generating system, developed by Air Liquide, eliminates the need to carry bulky oxygen canisters. The Rafale's flight computer has been programmed to counteract pilot disorientation and to employ automatic recovery of the aircraft during negative flight conditions. The auto-pilot and auto throttle controls are also integrated, and are activated by switches located on the primary flight controls.
A full range of advanced weapons
Initial deliveries of the Rafale M were to the F1 ("France 1") standard, these had been equipped for the air-to-air interceptor combat duties, but lacked any armaments for air-to-ground operations. Later deliveries were to the "F2" standard, which added the capability for conducting both air-to-ground and reconnaissance operations; the first F2 standard Rafale M was delivered to the French Navy in May 2006. Starting in 2008 onwards, Rafale deliveries have been to the nuclear-capable F3 standard, and it has been reported that all aircraft built to the earlier F1 and F2 standards are to be upgraded to become F3s. The mission system of the RAFALE has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.
The RAFALE’s stores management system is Mil-Std-1760 compliant, which provides for easy integration of customer-selected weapons. With its 10-tonne empty weight, the RAFALE is fitted with 14 hard points (13 on the RAFALE M). Five of them are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. Total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes (20,000 lbs.). “Buddy-buddy” refuelling missions can be carried out in portions of the airspace out of reach of dedicated and vulnerable tanker aircraft.
With its outstanding load-carrying capability and its advanced mission system, the RAFALE can carry out air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. It is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase: a clear demonstration of the true “OMNIROLE” capability and outstanding survivability of the RAFALE.
Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/M791 autocannon with 125 rounds
Rafale has the biggest gun on the market (ex aequo with Sukhoi aircraft): a hefty 30mm GIAT gun firing incendiary rounds. This makes the Rafale an excellent choice for both air to air and air to ground combat, as its 30mm rounds would provide excellent support for troops on the ground. 30mm is the caliber of the guns of most APCs and IFVs.
The MBDA MICA is an anti-air multi-target, all weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system. It is intended for use both by air platforms as individual missiles as well as ground units and ships, which can be equipped with the rapid fire MICA Vertical Launch System. It is fitted with a thrust vector control (TVC) system Range Air-launched 0.2–50 km at Mach 4.
Exocet AM39 is the airborne version of the Exocet anti-ship missile family. It can be launched from strike aircraft, Maritime Patrol Aircraft and helicopters. With a range of up to 70 km, depending on the altitude and speed of the aircraft, the Exocet AM39 enables the aircraft to remain at range from enemy air defenses. When carrying out a low altitude attack, the missile may also be launched under the target ship radar coverage. Ingress is at a very low altitude over the sea (sea skimming).
Built-in ssup portability
The RAFALE supportability and mission readiness claims are supported by the undisputed track record of the earlier generation of French fighters, such as the combat-proven MIRAGE 2000. From the early beginning of the development phase, the French MoD assigned very stringent “integrated logistic support” (ILS) requirements to the RAFALE programme. “Computer aided design” (CAD) with the Dassault Systèmes CATIA software suite, concurrent engineering and bold technological choices ultimately produced an ILS system that exceeds the original supportability requirements.
The following examples, selected from a range of unique and innovative features, demonstrate the advance in reliability, accessibility and maintainability brought by the RAFALE:
From 2006 to 2011, French Air Force and Navy RAFALE fighters were engaged in countless combat missions in Afghanistan where they demonstrated a very high proficiency and a tangible military value. The AASM/HAMMER precision-guided modular air-to-surface armament, PAVEWAY laser-guided bombs, and the 30 mm cannon were employed on many occasions, scoring direct hits with remarkable precision.
In 2011, French Air Force and French Navy RAFALE fighters were successfully engaged in coalition operations over Libya. They were the first fighters to operate over Benghazi and Tripoli, and they carried out the whole spectrum of missions the RAFALE was designed for: air-superiority, precision strikes with HAMMERS and laser-guided bombs, deep strike with SCALP cruise missiles, Intelligence, Surveillance, Tactical Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance (SCAR). During the Libyan conflict, hundreds of targets – tanks, armored vehicles, artillery emplacements, storage dumps, command centres and air-defense systems (SA-3 Goa and SA-8 Gecko fixed and mobile SAM launchers) – were hit with devastating accuracy by RAFALE aircrews.
French Air Force RAFALES have taken a leading role in Mali, helping destroy enemy infrastructure and support friendly troops in contact. Four RAFALES undertook the longest raid in French Air Force history, taking off from Saint-Dizier, in eastern France, and landing in N’Djamena, in Chad, after hitting 21 targets and spending no less than 9 h 35 min airborne. The French Air Force quickly set up a forward operating base in Chad, and the RAFALE detachment later grew to eight aircraft. This represented the first time the RAFALE had operated from a FOB in Africa.
More recently, RAFALES were engaged in support of peace-keeping operations in the Central African Republic, and as part of a wide international coalition in Iraq.
Courtesy :- Official Websites of Dassault , Thales, MBDA
:- Wikipedia and many other internet resources