Flight International test pilot -- and former Red Arrows team leader -- Peter Collins (above right) gives the Dassault Rafale a ringing endorsement in this week's magazine. "If I had to go into combat, on any mission, against anyone, I would, without question, choose the Rafale," Collins concludes in his six-page flight test report published in our Dubai Air Show preview issue.
Read the full article here.
Collins' report is timely because the Rafale appears to be nearing the end of a two-decade-old search for an export customer. If all goes perfectly well for Dassault, Brazil, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates could all be signed up as customers by the end of November (although that's still a big 'if'.)
If you want to cut to the chase, here's is the text from the last page of the excellent report.
It is worth remembering that stealth-optimised, or fifth-generation fighters such as the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are not only likely to be hugely expensive, but they can only preserve their stealth characteristics by carrying a very limited weapons load in their internal weapon bays.
Therefore, in the current and predicted financial defence climate, it could well be that so-called fourth-generation fighters will remain the aircraft of choice for most nations - perhaps even including the UK.
Moreover, the fact that the Rafale is the only European fighter in production that is carrier-capable gives it, in my opinion, a distinct advantage in any future export "fly-off" competition as a single combat type that can equip a country's air force and naval air arm.
In answer to my own evaluation objectives, it was obvious the Rafale has earned its omnirole definition, even though I barely scratched the surface of its sensor and weapon capabilities. The aircraft has an incredible level of performance befitting a fourth-generation type, and despite flying a highly complex and demanding evaluation sortie, I felt completely at home in the aircraft and retained full situational awareness. If it could keep me safe, it would also do the same for young first-tourist pilots coping with tactical operations.
The classic definitions of aircraft combat roles really do not do justice to this aircraft; the Rafale is Europe's force-multiplying "war-fighter" par excellence. It is simply the best and most complete combat aircraft that I have ever flown. Its operational deployments speak for themselves. If I had to go into combat, on any mission, against anyone, I would, without question, choose the Rafale.