After 42 years, it’s all over for the Dassault Super Etendard in French service. The final flight was scheduled for Tuesday 12 July at Landivisiau airbase, close to the French Atlantic coast. In its career, the sea was familiar territory for the Etendard, as the type was also operated from French Navy aircraft carriers.
The final flight was performed in front of hundreds of spectators at Landivisiau. Only five jets remained in service until the very end, although a significant number of Etendards still participated in operations against co-called Islamic State forces untill recently, flying from a French carrier.
Less known is the fact that France leased some Etendards to Iraq in the Eighties. Iraq then used the aircraft to employ the feared Exocet anti-shipping missiles at Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf. The jets eventually returned to France,
The Dassault Rafale of course replaces the Etendard in French service, with several dozen already in service. The last Etendards will probably find their way to museums in technical schools.
The world’s last Etendards are now to be found in Argentina, which operates just a few aircraft. These jets earned their fame in the 1982 Falklands war.
The French Navy received its 15th NH90 NFH naval helicopter on 22 September 2015. The handover by Airbus Helicopters at the facilities in Marignane marks the first delivery of a Marine “Caïman” – as the French name for the type goes – in its final radar configuration (FRC).
The Ministry of Defence of France ordered 27 NH90 NFH from NHIndustries in two different configurations for the French Navy. The French Navy declared an operational capability on the type in the anti-submarine operational role on 5 December 2014, completed on 3 March 2015 by the operational capability of the MU90 torpedo.
The naval version of the NH90 is designed to perform a wide range of missions from anti-submarine, to anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, maritime surveillance and control and special operations including counter terrorism and anti-piracy. The NH90 in its final radar configuration includes also an advanced sonar providing the Navy with improved submarine detection and classification capabilities, as well as a new system for the Digital Map Generator (DMG) facilitating mission preparation and execution.
The NH90’s 4-axis autopilot and the fly-by-wire controls contribute to safety and flight performance in severe operating conditions. The NH90 is the first serial helicopter in the world to be equipped with fly-by-wire technologies, meant to reduce the pilot workload.
To date, 249 NH90 have been delivered to 13 countries and have logged over 95,000 flight hours. The twin-engine, medium-size NH90 helicopter program is managed by the consortium NHIndustries, a company owned by Airbus Helicopters (62.5%), AgustaWestland (32%), and Fokker (5.5%).
Dassault Aviation in early October delivered the first of ten early built Rafale M fighter aircraft back to the French Marine after an extensive update to F3 standard. The first batch of ten Rafale M aircraft was built in the late 1990s to replace old F-8 Crusaders performing air defense duties, flying mainly from Marine aircraft carriers.
Those first aircraft were in basic F1 standard and limited to superiority and air defense missions only. Standards later switched to the more versatile F2 standard and the current F3. Reconfiguration fro F1 to F2 was fairly easy, but a change straight from F1 to F3 proved more challenging, according to Dassault. The company therefore designed a specific program for converting the ten F1 Rafale M aircraft to F3.
The modernization includes new modular electronic computers and cockpit screen, changes to the electrical wiring, upgrading of the Spectra countermeasures system, changes to the RBE2 PESA radar as well as changes to the weapon store stations.
The aircraft concerned were taken out of service several years ago and stored. They will now return to flying duties. The first F1 Rafale M to be re-delivered is serial M10. The other nine aircraft are to follow, with the last one expected some time in 2017.
Of the 180 Rafale aircraft ordered by France to date, 133 have been delivered. The French Rafale fleet has now flown a total of 120,000 flight hours, 16,000 of which during operations. Dassault is still struggling to sell the Rafale abroad. An order from India seems to be closing in, although talks have been ongoing for years.
French president François Hollande ordered an additional three Dassault Rafale fighter jets to Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates.
The three will supplement the six Rafales currently deployed there as part of Operation Chammal, which is the French contribution to the international air strikes on targets of the so-called Islamic State forces (Daech in French) in Iraq and Syria.
The French Naval Aviation (Aéronautica Navale) decided to upgrade 15 Dassault-Breguet Atlantic 2 (ATL2) maritime patrol aircraft to fly at least into the 2030s. The modernisation will be executed by Dassault Aviation and Thales and a lot of stuff exist only a bit, in the Rafale fighter.
The companies will develop and integrate new technologies on board the aircraft that are almost a quarter of a century old. Plans call for a new tactical mission system, modern sensor subsystems and digital displays. The French say to be proud that they are the only country that can develop maritime patrol aircraft in full glory besides the United States, boasting that the Atlantique 2 can deploy optronic, radar and acoustic sensors, while launching anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and laser-guided weapons.
“The upgrade program will improve the ATL2’s ability to deal with new and emerging threats under all weather conditions, both in strategic deterrence roles and in asymmetric conflicts involving quiet and stealthy submarines, high-speed craft, land vehicles, etc. The aircraft will be equipped to remain in operational service beyond 2030”, writes a Dassault press spokesperson in a press release.
The program will be conducted by Dassault Aviation and Thales (co-contractors) in partnership with DCNS and working with the SIAé. Dassault Aviation will be in charge of developing the core system, including the LOTI(2) mission software developed by DCNS. Dassault Aviation will also be responsible for subsystems integration and the conversion of a ‘prototype’ aircraft for flight testing.
Thales will develop the radar/IFF subsystem and the latest-generation digital acoustic processing subsystem (STAN), using technology incorporated in the Rafale fighter. Sensor developments will build on the results of government-funded advanced study programs in underwater detection and combat aircraft radars, including the RBE2 active electronically scanned array radar (AESA) developed for the Rafale. The STAN subsystem will process signals from all existing and future sonobuoys, detecting targets over a wider frequency range and making it possible to counter new types of threats.
DCNS will develop the LOTI software, which will establish an overall tactical picture based on data from different sensors, and manage the deployment of torpedoes, missiles and other weapons. This collaborative system enables several operators to interact at the same time. The SIAé will be responsible for developing the upgraded tactical display consoles and managing full-rate aircraft upgrade operations.
Dassault Aviation delivered the French Navy’s fleet of ATL2 aircraft during the 1990s to conduct air missions in support of France’s deterrence capabilities for the strategic ocean force and its fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, and for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. The Atlantique 2 was a further developed version of the original Breguet Br. 1150 Atlantique which first flew in 1961.
Other countries like Germany replaced the Atlantique through the years often with a larger aircraft such as the Lockheed P-3 Orion. Already the P-3 aircraft itself has made the German Navy (Marine) a lot happier, but the 18 hours of endurance for a mission flight of the Atlantique still beats a lot of aircraft.