Rafale F3.4 tested in Istres


From Oc­to­ber 6 to 17, 2014, French Air Force per­son­nel from the in­te­grated flight test team (EIEV) at Istres air­base and the Rafale pro­gramme of­fice at the air force op­er­a­tional tri­als unit (CEAM) at Mont-de-Marsan air­base eval­u­ated a new re­lease of the Rafale F3 stan­dard.

Des­ig­nated F3.4+, the new stan­dard be­ing de­vel­oped by in­dus­try un­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Ar­ma­ments (DGA), is part of the pro­gramme’s con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment process. It takes into ac­count the feed­back from re­cent op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ments, and con­trib­utes to the per­ma­nent im­prove­ment of flight safety. Ex­perts from the EIEV and CEAM form the core of ini­tial users, and mon­i­tor the de­ploy­ment of the new sys­tem. “For two weeks, we car­ried out flight tests,” said Ma­jor Mathieu Rigg, chief of the Rafale pro­gramme of­fice’s de­tach­ment at Istres. “The air­craft will then be flown to Mont-de-Marsan for the fi­nal test­ing phase be­fore its ser­vice in­tro­duc­tion.”

The F3.4+ stan­dard in­cludes many soft­ware im­prove­ments, such as im­proved cap­ture and con­ver­sion of NATO-stan­dard ge­o­graph­i­cal co­or­di­nates (in MGRS for­mat), which save time and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce crew work­load. In the field of flight safety, a new in­stru­ment will al­low pi­lots to bet­ter eval­u­ate the air­craft’s at­ti­tude, and will sound an alarm when it de­tects an un­usual po­si­tion. Like­wise, dur­ing the take-off phase, another alarm will en­sure the air­craft does not ex­ceed the max­i­mum en­ergy that can be han­dled by its land­ing gear brakes, which is a valu­able aid to man­age aborted take-offs. Fi­nally, “in ter­rain-fol­low­ing mode, the F3.4+ stan­dard in­tro­duces a new con­trol to switch, in real time, from radar mode to dig­i­tal map­ping,” adds Ma­jor Rigg.

Dur­ing the eval­u­a­tion phase, which com­prised 20 flight hours, pi­lots from CEAM and EIEV de­fined the bound­aries of the ex­panded flight en­ve­lope be­fore re­vis­ing the op­er­a­tional flight man­ual.

The new F3.4+ stan­dard of Rafale should en­ter op­er­a­tional ser­vice in early 2015.

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