Fighter passes the 5,000 milestone

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Dassault has now logged over 5,000 test flights of the Rafale fighter, with activities continuing apace at its Istres flight test centre near Marseille and from the French air force's Cazaux airbase, which is the centre of weapons testing efforts for the new aircraft.

Responsible for conducting around 100 test flights of Dassault's military and business jet products per month, the Istres facility has a staff of around 800 personnel including 22 pilots, and has a current complement of six prototype and early production Rafales. These are being used to support development of the type's F2 software standard, which introduces ground attack capability for the first time, and for the early evaluation of the multirole F3 configuration to be delivered from 2008.

Commence

Full-scale testing of the F3 configuration will commence next year, with Dassault awaiting the delivery of avionics test benches for the new standard, says Pierre-Cyril Delanglade, the company's Rafale Director at Istres.

The Rafale's "carefree" handling system cleared from 100-750kt, can fly at a 29.5 angle of attack and can perform manoeuvres up to 9g or 5.5g with a heavy load. Its ability to conduct networked operations with F2 software have also been proven following a demonstration of the type's Link 16 datalink while operating with a Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System platform, Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control system aircraft and the French navy's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

The Rafale distributed synthesized data from its onboard sensors during the trials. In addition to proving such data fusion capabilities, Delanglade says a major objective of the flight test campaign "Is to master the complexity of the man-machine interface and to validate it".