They’re the second of five aircraft types which will be coming to Finland through the end of February, as the Air Force weighs up the pros and cons of each in the process to determine which company will win the €10 billion contract to replace the country’s ageing fleet of Hornet jets.
Rafale means “burst of fire” [or “gust of wind”], and the two aircraft were escorted in Finnish air space by a Finnish F/A-18D, one of the jets that Rafale hopes to replace.
Myös #Dassault #Rafale'n #HXChallenge-osuudessa nähtiin virallinen hihamerkki. Kaksipaikkaiset Rafale B -hävittäjät median edessä. Suorituskykyjen tosittaminen pääsee pian vauhtiin ranskalaishävittäjien osalta. #HXhanke #ilmavoimat #turpo #FinlandHX #RafalePatch pic.twitter.com/B4GFTZpENy— Miikka Hult (@MiiHult) January 21, 2020
Media day on Jan. 21 for the two Rafale aircraft deployed to Finland for a week of evaluations for the Finnish Air Force’s H-X Challenge.
Although the French military is the main user of the Rafale jets, they’ve also been sold to India, Egypt and Qatar.
What’s happening at Pirkkala Air Base?
The aircraft will take part in simulated long-term war games, where the candidate jets will play their roles as part of Finland’s defence systems. In the simulated battles, they’ll face the Air Force’s current F/A-18 Hornets and Hawk jet trainers.
The Air Force says the event is taking place in Finland so that each plane can be tested under Finnish winter operating conditions – and also to provide a balanced evaluation for each of the five candidate aircraft.
The other contenders taking part in ‘Operation HX Challenge’ are America’s Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; and Sweden’s Saab Gripen.
Next candidate to take part in the #HXChallenge is Dassault Rafale. On 20 January, Dassault flew two Rafale fighter jets to Pirkkala Airbase. They will undergo tests during 20–28 January. Rafales were escorted by the #FINAF F/A-18D #Hornet. #satlsto pic.twitter.com/Uy2ONoZZxt— Ilmavoimat (@FinnishAirForce) January 20, 2020
Eurofighter’s Typhoon aircraft from a base in England were the first to take part in the evaluation exercise.
Although all the aircraft are designed to operate in sub-zero temperatures, the challenges come when the temperatures hover around freezing with snow, sleet or freezing drizzle throwing extra challenges at the jets. Harsh weather conditions can have an impact on the performance of electro-optical sensors in particular.