Dassault Aviation has successfully completed first test flights of the Rafale multi-role combat aircraft in a new heavily-armed configuration, at an undisclosed location.
Around six air-to-ground precision AASM Hammer missiles, four medium and long range air-to-air missiles from the MICA family, two very long range Meteor missiles, and three 2,000L fuel tanks were carried by the aircraft during preliminary evaluation sorties.
Carried out in collaboration with the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA), the self-funded, preliminary work will eventually lead to a complete clearance of the flight envelope, according to the company.
The increase in capabilities of the fourteen hard points, including eight under the wings, is claimed to make Rafale the only fighter aircraft in the world capable of carrying 1.5 times its own weight.
Rafale already has a unique range of configurations, including the ability to strike deeply, while carrying two Scalp cruise missiles and three 2,000L fuel tanks, as used by the French Armed Forces during Operation Harmattan in Libya in 2011.
The new configuration, along with the recently awarded F3-R standard contract, forms a part of an ongoing process to continuously enhance the aircraft in line with operational requirements.
Powered by two SNECMA M88 engines, the Rafale is a delta-wing multi-role jet fighter designed to conduct air-to-air combat, reconnaissance flights and nuclear bombing missions and can also carry anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
Representing the first aircraft to operate from both a land base and an aircraft carrier, the aircraft can also attack land and naval targets and provide close air support to ground troops.
The aircraft entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006.
Image: A heavily-armed Rafale fighter aircraft during test flight. Photo: © Dassault Aviation – V. Almansa.
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