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 gointo 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 Fighterare not only likely to be hugely expensive, but they can only preservetheir stealth characteristics by carrying a very limited weapons loadin their internal weapon bays.
Therefore, in the current andpredicted financial defence climate, it could well be that so-calledfourth-generation fighters will remain the aircraft of choice for mostnations – perhaps even including the UK.
Moreover, the factthat the Rafale is the only European fighter in production that iscarrier-capable gives it, in my opinion, a distinct advantage in anyfuture export “fly-off” competition as a single combat type that canequip a country’s air force and naval air arm.
In answer to myown evaluation objectives, it was obvious the Rafale has earned itsomnirole definition, even though I barely scratched the surface of itssensor and weapon capabilities. The aircraft has an incredible level ofperformance befitting a fourth-generation type, and despite flying ahighly complex and demanding evaluation sortie, I felt completely athome in the aircraft and retained full situational awareness. If itcould keep me safe, it would also do the same for young first-touristpilots coping with tactical operations.
The classic definitionsof aircraft combat roles really do not do justice to this aircraft; theRafale is Europe’s force-multiplying “war-fighter” par excellence. Itis simply the best and most complete combat aircraft that I have everflown. Its operational deployments speak for themselves. If I had to gointo combat, on any mission, against anyone, I would, without question,choose the Rafale.