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Saturday, August 04, 2012

an Indian experiences flying in the Rafale multi-role combat aircraft

NDTV reporter writes down his experience flying rear-seat in the French Rafale fighter aircraft.

Dassault-Rafale-Multi-Role-Combat-Aircraft-France-IAF-01

NDTV's Vishnu Som recently got a chance to fly passenger in a twin-seat French Rafale multi-role combat aircraft [Rafale B]. In this article, that appeared yesterday, he shares his experience, explaining some of technologies that were demonstrated to him during the flight. A fine enthusiasts article - not an evaluation. Wikipedia info weaved together beautifully through an engaging first person narration. He does write about a lesser known aspect of the Rafale's operations in Libya - a God-sent sales pitch opportunity, the Libyan campaign was, to demonstrate the NATO military equipment's warfighting capabilities in real-world environment in a barely-hostile airspace.

"In March last year, pilots of the 1/7 Squadron based in St Dizier, not too far from Paris, flew a 9-hour-long mission into Libya, in the first wave of attacks against Moammer Gaddafi's armed forces.

Using secure high-rate data links, Rafale fighters in the early days of the conflict were able to receive intelligence images and video real-time through a system called Rover (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver) from friendly forces on the ground. Using this information which was also shared with Intelligence analysts on-board AWACS jets, Rafale fighters were instantly vectored to new targets. Using a combination of its Damocles laser designation pod, which can mark targets for laser guided bombs and its Front Sector Optronics system which provides high resolution images, pilots were able to accurately identify and hit targets at long ranges.

The 'hitting' itself was done, quite frequently, by a remarkable new munition, the AASM, a rocket boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon, called the SBU-38 'Hammer' by NATO. Using the Hammer, Rafale pilots were able to designate upto 6 independent targets and hit all of them simultaneously. All the pilot needed to do was to 'pickle' (depress the trigger) once for the release of all six bombs. An incredibly versatile weapon system, the Hammer, it was seen, even had a robust capability against moving targets, an unprecedented capability for a weapon of its class."

Read the full article: Thunder at 100 feet: Flying France's Rafale Superfighter

In the article,

"With Rafale winning the Indian Air Force (IAF) competition, there was really no need for Dassault the manufacturers of the jet, to make a statement in the Indian media. It was quite an honour then to be invited, a project that we at NDTV felt quite keen to take on."

Not quite correct to say so. The Rafale has been shortlisted for price negotiations with the Indian Govt. Subject to the negotiating parties agreeing on a mutually acceptable deal, the final contract would eventually be signed [a point he, himself, mentions]. Thus, not only is Rafale's win not confirmed, but, recently a MP of a Eurofighter partner nation, Germany, Philipp MiƟfelder went on record to say, "We are not giving up hope that India will finally accept the offer of these four nations". The combined might of the Eurofighter consortium would, undoubtedly, be exerting all its diplomatic muscle to get another look-in for their aircraft.

The French, therefore, realise the importance of continuing to keep at the task of striving to generate favourable opinion, both among the common public, but most importantly among the powers-that-be in India. Hence, this joyride for Vishnu, not unlike the recent "Chao Phraya" for Indian journalists on the defence beat, sponsored by Boeing.

Godspeed

Related: Flight testing the Rafale - UK Test pilot's perspective

image source: Fox Three magazine. The closest picture of the aircraft to being mistaken for an Indian Air Force [IAF] Rafale - no French squadron insignia painted on its vertical stabilizers.