Dassault Rafale Fighter Jet
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Dassault described the Rafale as being an omnirole fighter with semi-stealth capabilities. The Rafale is a multirole combat aircraft; capable of simultaneously undertaking air supremacy, interdiction, reconnaissance, and the airborne nuclear deterrent missions.
Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. It has also been marketed for export to several countries, including selection by the Indian Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan and Libya; features such as the SPECTRA integrated defensive aids system have been crucial advantages in these theatres. Several upgrades to the radar, engines, and avionics of the Rafale are planned to be introduced in the near-future.
The Rafale was developed as a modern jet fighter with a very high level of agility; Dassault chose to combine a delta wing with active close-coupled canard to maximize maneuverability, the aircraft is capable of withstanding 9 g or −3.6 g. The Rafale is an aerodynamically unstable aircraft, thus digital fly-by-wire flight controls are employed to artificially enforce and maintain stability. The canard also reduces landing speed to 115 knots (213 km/h; 132 mph); in flight, air speeds as low as 15 kt have been recorded during flight training missions. The Rafale's performance at slow speeds allows the use of runways and landing strips as short as 400-metre (1,300 ft), and is also beneficial for carrier operations.
Although not a full-aspect stealth aircraft, the cost of which was viewed as unacceptably excessive, the Rafale was designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infra-red signature. In order to reduce the RCS, changes from the initial technology demonstrator include a reduction in the size of the tail-fin, fuselage reshaping, repositioning of the engine air inlets underneath the aircraft's wing, and the extensive use of composite materials and serrated patterns for the construction of the trailing edges of the wings and canards.
The Rafale's glass cockpit was designed around the principle of data fusion - a central computer intelligently selects and prioritises information to display to pilots for simpler command and control. Advanced features have been incorporated into this highly-digital cockpit; an integrated Direct Voice Input (DVI) system, allowing a range of aircraft functions to be controlled by a pilot's voice commands, is intended to further reduce pilot workload by simplifying control access. For deliberate safety reasons, DVI is not employed for safety-critical elements of the aircraft's operation, such as the final release of armaments. The primary flight controls are arranged in a hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)-compatible configuration, with a right-handed side-stick controller and a left-handed throttle.
For displaying information gathered from a range of sensors across the aircraft, the cockpit features a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD) system, two head-down flat-panel colour multi-function displays (MFDs) as well as a central collimated display; these displays have been stragetically placed to minimise pilot distraction from the external environment. A touch interface has been integrated into several displays for ease of pilot interactivity. A head-mounted display (HMD) is in development for future use upon the Rafale, which will undertake tasks such as target selection. The cockpit is fully compatible with night vision goggles (NVG).