Dassault and its industry partners on the Rafale combat aircraft have achieved a significant programme milestone with the delivery of the first production example to feature an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
Handed over to France's DGA defence procurement agency at Dassault's Merignac assembly site on 2 October, single-seat aircraft C137 will enter French air force service with the Thales RBE2 radar. The DGA says it will be delivered to Mont-de-Marsan air base "in the coming days".
Delivery of the first RBE2 has been achieved "on time and on budget", Dassault and Thales say in a joint statement. A schedule outlined last year calls for the new array to be ready to enter frontline use in mid-2013, and to equip the latest batch of 60 aircraft on order for the French air force and navy. The new F3-04T-standard fighter also has improved front sector optronics equipment from Thales and the DDM-NG passive missile approach warning system, produced by MBDA.
The Rafale has gained an operational AESA sensor before European rivals the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen, its developers note. Also included in French proposals to export the so-called "omnirole" platform to Brazil and India, the RBE2 offers increased detection range, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands versus the radar's earlier passive array.
A total of 111 Rafales have been delivered so far from combined orders for 180 aircraft, according to the DGA. This includes 36 M-model examples for the French navy and 37 Cs and 38 two-seater Bs for the air force.