DASSAULT AVIATION HAS successfully completed aircraft-carrier compatibility tests in the USA on its Rafale M01, the naval version of the fighter.

The aircraft has been returned to its base at the Istres test centre in southern France, for further tests before production commences, in time for entry into operational service, in 1999.

The final US test series, which was conducted at the Lakehurst naval base in New Jersey, has validated flight configurations with external loads on catapult launching and deck landing.

Despite French defence-budget cuts, there will be no delays in the delivery of the Rafale avion de combat marine to the navy's fleet air arm, due to start in1998. The first flotilla is scheduled to enter service in 1999.

The French air force's Rafale avion de combat tactique will suffer delays of two to five years, because of the budget cuts, and delivery of the aircraft is not now expected until 2002 at the earliest.

Source: Flight International