The stealth drone demonstrator « nEUROn » designed by Dassault Aviation, performed her maiden flight this morning at Istres Dassault Flight Test Center.
Dassault along with DGA – French Defense Procurement Agency, and nEUROn customer – successfully conducted this first flight test of the European UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle).
The nEUROn project FCAS (Future European fighter Combat Air System) , launched in 2005, involves France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. Some parts or elements of this aircraft – flight controls maybe – would come from the Dassault Falcon 7X.
Brazil is to spend up to 7 billion dollars (around 12 billion reals) for its Brazilian Air Force (FAB – Forca Aerea Brasileira) next procurement – fighter aircraft. There is no way to predict whether it will be Rafales, Gripens, or Super Hornets. Nobody knows much about what the tender outcome will be. We just know that India would advise Brazil in this competition. We will have to take another six months until Brazil makes a decision on this bid ie on December 31, 2012, or even later.
On the one hand, the French Dassault Rafale is deemed ahead thanks to its performance, the Swiss NAC tests, and thanks to a transfer of technology pledge. Moreover, the Rafale (carrier-capable) has won the Indian MMRCA tender among strong contenders – F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, MiG-35 Fulcrum F, Eurofighter/Typhoon, F-16IN Super Viper, JAS 39 NG Gripen. On the other hand, the U.S. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would be cheaper but the transfer of technology still depends on another aircraft sale.
The British Harriers were to be replaced by the F-35Cs. Do you remember? You may have learnt from the recent news that the carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Joint Strike Fighter – CV JSF (Carrier Vessel variant’s Joint Strike Fighter) – F-35C was unable to catch the wire onboard the aircraft carrier during the latest landing tests.
Strange as it may seem, the F-35C’s designers may have not forecast what would unfold during a test flight while landing on an aircraft carrier:
The arresting hook (tailhook) never engaged the arresting wire as the clearance between the tail hook and the main landing gear’s tyre tread is too short for such a speed. An F-35C Lightning II missing her carrier landing has been reported even though some U.S. officials would have dismissed such information which might result from simulated tests.
Added to that is a software bug which had grounded the CV JSF for 6 days a few month earlier for the fifth-generation fighter aircraft might have encountered wing-folding input while flying!
As a result, the British Ministry of Defence might find a Plan-B solution as these design flaws, and some others which date back to November 2011 are deemed unacceptable for such an expensive fighter aircraft – $139.5 million for the F-35C (CATOBAR – Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery), and $150 million for the F-35B (STOVL – Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing). The latter can land on carriers but she is more expensive, and the JSF program costs have already increased several times.
Moreover, the JSF would not be able to fire AMRAAM air-to-air missiles as reported in this video:
And there’s even more: according to a Pentagon study team report, 13 areas of concern that remained to be addressed in the F-35 would have been identified. For instance, the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) would not work properly…
The British MoD is therefore considering the purchase of either F/A-18E Super Hornets or RAFALEs for the RAF. The French Dassault which has already lost the Swiss NAC tender due to replace the Swiss Air Force’s F-5s, would be proposing a new offer with 18 RAFALEs at a cost deemed lower than the 22 SAAB Gripens’ one according to the Swiss press.
The RAFALE is still in competition with the Eurofighter in the Indian MMRCA tender. the Indian officials are expected to make a decision this week. To be continued… ==> We have just learnt (on January 31, 2012) that the RAFALE has won the MMRCA tender… 🙂
11/30/2011 – The news broke today : The Swiss Air Force is to acquire 22 Sweedish SAAB GRIPEN fighter aircraft. The Swiss government had warned that they were compelled to squeeze their budget for this $3.36 billion bid as they could not afford to purchase the 33 fighter aircraft planned for the replacement of their F-5 Tiger fleet.
In spite of its outstanding performance during the tests as well as over the battlefields in Afghanistan, and in Libya, the Dassault Rafale was not chosen. Moreover, like the EADS Eurofighter/Typhoon, it was deemed too expensive for Switzerland could not buy as many aircraft within the budget allocated.
The Gripen is a good option for Switzerland since it is the cheapest one. The version to be delivered – JAS 39E/F or Gripen Demo/NG – is believed to be an excellent one – IRST (InfraRed Search and Track); ES-05 Raven AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar & SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar); Electronic Warfare (EW) systems; Helmet Mounted Sight and Display (HMSD)…
However, this new-generation Gripen NG is a single engine fighter aircraft. It was tactically outperformed by its opponents, and last but not least, it has not yet been produced. As a matter of fact, the Swiss should be involved in the R&D works.
No other fighter aircraft will be as omnipresent at the Paris Air Show as the Rafale as it has been shorlisted for India’s MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) tender along with the Eurofighter. The IAF (Indian Air Force) is to order 126 multirole fighter aircraft for a deal of up to $10 billion. The French Dassault Rafale is still in competition with the Swedish SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, and the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in Brazil.
The Rafale also remains with the Gripen, and the Eurofighter in the Swiss NAC competition in order to replace the Swiss Air Force F-5s. The French Air Force has already demonstrated through the Rafale its combat readiness in Afghanistan, and over Libya. Its brand new reconnaissance pod Reco NG is now flying, and it managed to strike moving targets with its laser-guided AASM – Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon – beyond all expectations.
Its new Thales RBE2-AA AESA radar is still being developed. It has already been tested, and should be fully operational next year.
ToT (Transfer of Technology) has been pledged for the Rafale if the Indian government were to make its procurement decision.
Special thanks to Xavier Cotton, an aviation geek who provided the top left picture. Please visit his website https://www.passionpourlaviation.fr/ full of fantastic posts about aircraft of all time as well as from everywhere.