From October 6 to 17, 2014, French air force personnel from the integrated flight test team (EIEV) at Istres air base and the Rafale program office at the air force operational trials unit (CEAM) at Mont-de-Marsan air base evaluated a new release of the Rafale F3 standard.
Designated F3.4 +, the new standard being developed by industry under the responsibility of the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), is part of the program’s continuous improvement process. It takes into account the feedback from recent operational deployments, and contributes to the permanent improvement of flight safety. Experts from the EIEV and CEAM form the core of initial users, and monitor the deployment of the new system. "For two weeks, we carried out flight tests,” said Major Mathieu Rigg, chief of the Rafale program office’s detachment at Istres. “The aircraft will then be flown to Mont-de-Marsan for the final testing phase before its service introduction.”
The F3.4 + standard includes many software improvements, such as improved capture and conversion of NATO-standard geographical coordinates (in MGRS format), which save time and significantly reduce crew workload. In the field of flight safety, a new instrument will allow pilots to better evaluate the aircraft’s attitude, and will sound an alarm when it detects an unusual position. Likewise, during the take-off phase, another alarm will ensure the aircraft does not exceed the maximum energy that can be handled by its landing gear brakes, which is a valuable aid to manage aborted take-offs. Finally, “in terrain-following mode, the F3.4+ standard introduces a new control to switch, in real time, from radar mode to digital mapping,” adds Major Rigg.
During the evaluation phase, which comprised 20 flight hours, pilots from CEAM and EIEV- defined the boundaries of the expanded flight envelope before revising the operational flight manual.
The new F3.4+ standard of Rafale should enter operational service in early 2015.
FOCUS on the Istres Integrated Flight Test Team (EIEV)
The integrated flight test team, stationed at Istres air base in south-eastern France, comprises seven representatives of the government (pilots, flight engineers and navigators) from CEAM (Air Force), the Centre d'Expérimentations Pratiques et de Réception de l'Aéronavale, its French navy equivalent, and from DGA’s own flight test center.
Working closely with industry, EIEV personnel are the technical representatives of the air force headquarters for all major changes to the program.
In addition to wide experience in aviation and operations, these personnel followed a one-year internship at the DGA’s test pilot school (l’école du personnel navigant d’essais et de reception, EPNER). They ensure the service introduction of new systems and equipment, and evaluate their effects on man/machine interface.