Tag Archives: Typhoon

RAF's weapon of choice in Libya to be upgraded as export opportunities emerge

MBDA has announced it is to work on a successor to Brimstone the fire and forget anti-armour missile that had a starring role in the Air War over Libya. During Operation Unified Protector the RAF fired a good number of these advanced weapons and the results were startling.

Optimized for release from fast moving platforms, these small guided missiles have a range of 7.5 miles. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect for small targets, individuals, buildings and fast-moving vehicles.

With a warhead of 9 kg, capable of destroying a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters, the dual-mode (radar – laser) Brimstone missile proved to be the weapons of choice of the RAF Tornados when engaging ground vehicles, attracting the interest of other coalition partners.

First fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement, the weapon was used first on the RAF’s Harriers during operations over Afghanistan. It has now been integrated onto the Tornado GR4 typically in a mixed load out with a single rack of three brimstone and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs and sometimes with the Rafael Litening III reconnaissance pod.

The Brimstone is also to be integrated onto the RAF’s Typhoon which (in theory) could carry 18 of the 50kg (110-lb) weapons: the use of the advanced anti-armor, air-to-surface missile offering all-weather “fire and forget” capability on the Typhoon would enhance the Typhoon’s ground attack capability considerably.

MBDA has said it has delivered some 500 weapons to the RAF which has fired some 200 of the missiles during both operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

The enhancements brought in by Brimstone2 are said to be an improved seeker and updated explosives. MBDA also said it expects to have “improvements in range and engagement footprint” obviously lessons learned over Libya are now filtering down to the final product with these upgrades. Having changed a few manufacturing techniques building the weapon has also improved the ability to fix or repair damaged weapons.

As Brimstone is an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire it can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAV’s and MBDA says that export customers can buy either weapon.

It does look like the US Military is first in line with the French close behind.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti

Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright

Following on India's MMRCA win, Rafale on the verge of winning UAE fighter deal?

Has Dassault won a 60 jet deal with the UAE?

French newspaper La Tribune reported on Feb. 2, 2012, that France could be on the verge of winning a long-awaited $10billion 60 jet deal with the United Arab Emerates which could be signed as soon as April.

Citing unidentified sources, the paper said on its website that President Nicolas Sarkozy would go to the UAE in March or early April when the contract is likely to be finalised.

The rumor comes only days after Dassalt virtually won the Indian MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal and few months after Eurofighter consortium, beaten in the “mother of all tenders”, received  an RFP (Request For Proposal) by the UAE Air Force.

The deal has been in the pipeline since 2008 but negotiations stalled when the UAE described it as “uncompetitive and unworkable.” and had asked for information about the Typhoon. Althought how the deal was unlocked remains unclear a source told La Tribune that every issue has been solved.

If confirmed, this new order will unlock the possibility of further middle east deals for Dassault and Rafale in the Gulf, where countries could benefit of inter-operability that a common platform could offer. Qatar Emiri Air Force whose Mirage 2000s have taken part to the Air War in Libya  operating side to side with the French Air Force combat planes out of Souda Bay, Crete, could buy 24 to 36 Rafale to replace its ageing Mirages. Kuwait last year said it was also considering buying Rafales.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist

Photo by Alessandro Fucito

India's MMRCA fighter jet deal: illusion and disillusion on the losers' side.

All media outlets have been reporting the various reactions to the news that India is “likely” to award the contract for its MMRCA competition to Dassault as it was the lowest cost bid.

Aviation week’s Robert Wall wrote that the news is “Not going down well in London”.

Although Wall points out that Germany led the Eurofighter campaign, he describes the disapointment amongst British politicians as “palpable”. Indeed, many are complaining under their breath that Britain gives many more times aid to India than France ever has.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had, along with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, lobbied on behalf of the Eurofighter bid and did have to admit “the decision is obviously disappointing”. In an attempt to quell increasing worries from other members of the British parliament he pointed out that “they have not yet awarded the contract”. Cameron also promised to do all he could to persuade the Indians to take another look at the Typhoon and that job losses in the UK are not expected as a result.

Job losses is also a concern for the other three partners of the Eurofighter consortium, Italy, Germany and Spain each building sections of the jet but doing little to sponsor the aircraft in the Indian contest.

Although Eurofighter was believed to have a more political clout because it was backed by four European countries, lack of a united effort from partners could have been a decisive flaw on the Typhoon side. Those countries that were supposed to unitarily support the F-2000, are the same that in times of financial crisis have been much distant one another on the strategy to save the Eurozone.

Anyway, since everybody is claiming that no contract has been signed yet and 6-8 months of (hard) negotiations lie ahead for Dassault, someone has already tried to raise the stakes.

For instance, in a statement to Reuters, Pentagon spokeswoman Leslie Hull-Ryde said there had been no U.S. offer to sell India the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35, but Washington would provide information on the jet’s infrastructure and security requirements if India showed interest in purchasing the Joint Strike Fighter. Even if it’s hard to believe the U.S. would give the requested technology transfer on its most (costly) and troubled program,  a contract worth 10 billion USD for 126 planes (with 80 more examples on the shopping list), might spur the Department of Defense to knock on New Dehli’s door with the resolve needed to persuade India to scrap its own 5th generation fighter radar evanding plane in favor of the F-35.

In the meanwhile, boosted by the win in India, Dassault has made a new offer to Switzerland where the Rafale was beaten by the Swedish Gripen in the selection for the Swiss Air Force F-5 replacement.

Let’s see what happens.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti

Here's what the Indian MMRCA Rafale might look like

You already know by now that the Dassault Rafale has won India’s MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) in what has been called the “mother of all tenders”, worth $10 billion for 126 planes.

Thanks to Al Clark‘s digital mock-up, we also know how it could look like.

Breaking: “The Dassault Rafale has won the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft”

Although it must still be confirmed, it looks like the Dassault Rafale will be the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, a contract worth about $10 billion USD (“the biggest fighter aircraft deal since the early 1990s”) for +126 planes.

According to the Stratpost article published on Jan. 31, baked by tweet by ReutersAero, the French plane

beat the four-nation consortium’s Eurofighter on price, with the fighter being identified as L1, or the lowest technically qualified bid.”

The Rafale will boost an already varied fleet that can count on 51 Mirage 2000s, 63 Mig-29s and the first 140 Sukhoi Su-30MKI of the 272 that the Indian Air Force expects to operate by 2020. Beginning next year, the IAF will also get the first batch of 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, without considering all the obsolete types still in service or pending phase-out (Mig-21, Mig-27 and Jaguar) and the expected procurement of more than 210 stealthy fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

The announcement (preceded by a series of opposite claims) came at the end of a fierce contest with the Typhoon that saw the two combat planes continuously under the spotlight since they were shortlisted in India: Aero India 2011, Le Bourget, Royal International Air Tattoo, Sion Breitling airshow are only some of the public events which featured the European fighters’ air displays, press briefings, war stories, etc. during 2011.

There are many reasons to believe that also the air war in Libya was used for marketing purposes as it represented an interesting opportunity (because of the low-lethality scenario) to test new configurations and get some media attention, that could be useful not only to win the MMRCA tender but to get orders also in Brazil, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bulgaria, Greece, Switzerland and….in Libya, where a deal for 14 Rafales was almost closed in 2008 with Gaddafi and there will be the need to re-equip the Free Libya Air Force in the future. I think we should not forget that, at the end of March 2011, before the Typhoon and Rafale were shortlisted, (incidentally?) all the five contenders of the MMRCA competition were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and were taking part to the then Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Although both planes are closely matched, I’ve often explained on this blog that whereas the Typhoon offers superior air-to-air capabilities, the Rafale is truly multi-role and better in the air-to-surface role.

That’s what I wrote in my Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 81-104) on Jul 1, 2011:

The “omnirole” Rafale can claim to have been the first aircraft to enter to Libyan airspace on Mar. 19 (even though I’ve already explained this happened in the Benghazi area where the risk of SAM and AAA fire was low) thanks to the Spectra integrated defensive aids suite developed by Thales. For sure although it can’t be considered as multirole as to be capable to perform a typical SEAD strike as an F-16CJ or a Tornado ECR, the French plane has the possibility to combine its sensors (such as the Spectra) and the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire – Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon) PGM to identify, designate and hit ground targets. Furthermore, during Unified Protector, the AASM demonstrated to be effective against a tank at a range of 57 km.

The Rafale will also be the first European combat plane to use an electronic scanning radar; with “Tranche 4”, expected to be handed over from 2013, the 60 French upgraded Rafales will carry an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) RBE2 radar (compatible with long range METEOR air-to-air missiles) whose beam can be pointed from one area to another one quickly, in all weather and in a jammed environment, and that can be used in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes at the same time, with an enhanced detection capability.

So, who’s gonna win in India? Difficult to say. Surely, Rafale is a more mature plane, capable of performing a wide variety of missions, from SEAD(-lite) to reconnaissance, and it is already available in navalised version for aircraft carrier ops.  However, Eurofighter already has export customers that Rafale lacks [UAE sale should be closer now NdA], and it has an attractive user community that could give stronger strategic ties with 4 European nations.

Furthermore, the Typhoon has a more powerful engine, a better BVR capability and is able to pull max G-load while launcing its weapons and carrying three external fuel tanks. It has also an extensive air-to-air missile load and can perform supersonic launching while supercruising with a large missile load. The Typhoon has a very lightweight operational bifocal Helmet Mounted Display, which in combination with the IRIS-T or ASRAAM High Off Boresight Missiles provides the F-2000 with superior dogfight capabilities. So, it’s a lethal weapon in the air-to-air scenario, and it has a potential still to be developed to become a real multirole. Finally, Eurofighter is working on a navalised Typhoon too….

The MMRCA was extremely important for Dassault, as one of the last chances (if not the last) to get an export order for the Rafale. If confirmed, the win in India could open new markets to the omnirole French plane.

Photo by Alessandro Fucito.