Super Etendards receive improved ground-attack and reconnaissance capabilities

The French navy's aircraft carrier FNS Charles de Gaulle will leave its home port of Toulon early next month for a four-month cruise to the Indian Ocean, for the first time embarking Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé fighter-bombers modified to the final Standard 5 configuration.

Optimised for close air support (CAS) tasks and incorporating software, autopilot and communication system enhancements, the aircraft was declared ready for duty late last month to meet operational requirements until the type's retirement in 2013.

Software improvements have increased the accuracy of the Super Etendard's air-launched missiles, including MBDA AM 39 Exocet anti-ship, AS 30L air-to-surface and R550 Magic air-to-air missiles, and Raytheon Paveway II laser-guided bombs (LGB). The Standard 5 aircraft has an expanded weapons load-out, with new underwing pylons capable of carrying two LGBs per station. The new software fit also introduces additional modes for the Thales Damocles targeting pod, enabling pilots to see cues provided by offboard laser designators, and providing forward-looking infrared imagery to radar and head-up displays.

Standard 5 
© G J A Van Boven/Sentry Aviation News   
The French navy's newly operational Standard 5 aircraft will meet combat needs until 2013

An official from the navy's Flottille 11F squadron, now fielding the aircraft, says the enhancements to the Damocles interface will increase operational performance at medium and low level, with the pod also to support reconnaissance tasks.

The navy's ability to conduct CAS missions using the Super Etendard will be further boosted by encrypted communications equipment and a new autopilot, which will for the first time enable the aircraft to bank automatically. Further improvements sought for the type include a digital recorder for the CRM 280 reconnaissance pod, digital map, Improved Data Modem and Enhanced Paveway laser/GPS-guided bombs, the service says.

The Charles de Gaulle will deploy with 11F operating four or five Standard 5 Super Etendards, plus additional Standard 4 aircraft. In 2009 the squadron will be the first Super Etendard unit to transition to the F3-standard Dassault Rafale M, followed by 17F in 2013. The navy is now receiving modernised Super Etendards at a rate of one a month, with 36 to eventually be upgraded to the new configuration. Its remaining 13 examples will receive new software only and be redesignated as Standard 4+ aircraft.

Source: Flight International