The Rafale supportability and mission readiness claims are supported by the undisputed track record of the earlier generation of French fighters, such as the combat-proven Mirage 2000.
From the early beginning of the development phase, the French MoD assigned very stringent “integrated logistic support” (ILS) requirements to the Rafale programme. “Computer aided design” (CAD) with the Dassault Systèmes CATIA software suite, concurrent engineering and bold technological choices ultimately produced an ILS system that exceeds the original supportability requirements.
The following examples, selected from a range of unique and innovative features, demonstrate the advance in reliability, accessibility and maintainability brought by the Rafale:
To allow the Rafale the greatest possible autonomy during deployments, it requires only minimum ground support equipment:
All of these maintainability features were validated from the development phase by French Navy and Air Force support specialists, and have demonstrated their reliability in combat during various operations. This ease of maintenance means that technicians can be trained quickly: Rafale conversion training and aircraft support was organized for an export client within a matter of weeks, providing the client with the operating autonomy it needed to successfully deploy its fleet.
Thanks to its outstanding reliability, the Rafale has lower maintenance costs.
Failure-prone systems have been eliminated early on in the design process:
This results in reduced spares inventory, less man-hours and less ground support equipment.
Rafale deployments have confirmed that specialized infrastructures are unnecessary, even in cases of intensive use: maintenance can be performed outdoors or in a temporary shelter.
Another source of reduction of the required spares inventory comes from the constant standardisation approach during the design phase,
The required spares inventory is further reduced by adapting the troubleshooting procedures to allow the exchange of electronic circuit boards within “line replaceable units” (LRUs), rather than exchanging the LRUs: this applies to the RBE2 radar, the SPECTRA EW suite, the MDPU mission computer and to other equipment as well.
Special attention has been paid to accessibility issues: for instance, the side- opening canopy facilitates the replacement of the ejection seat, so that two technicians can perform its removal in 10 minutes only.
No heavy test equipment is needed around the Rafale on the flight line: All checks at this level can be run by maintenance technicians on the aircraft itself.
No test bench is needed for the M88 engine, a remarkable first in fighter aircraft itself.
Based on significant experience in corrosion protection for carrier-based aircraft (SUPER ETENDARD) and maritime patrol aircraft (ATLANTIC 1/ ATLANTIQUE 2), Dassault Aviation has developed new advanced corrosion protection processes which help drive down the cost of maintenance of the Rafale: corrosion issues discovered during maintenance being the perfect “show stopper” which exceeds spending targets and delays the return of aircraft to service in the most unpredictable way.