The sheer power of multisensor data fusion

Multi-sensor data fusion

The process of fusion of all data provided by all onboard and offboard (wingmen, C²…) sensors is what makes the Rafale pretty unique.

Implementation of the “multi-sensor data fusion” into the Rafale translates into accurate, reliable and strong tracks and into an unambiguous perception of the evolving tactical situation. It helps reduce pilot workload, speed up pilot reactivity, and eventually increase situational awareness within and outside the boundaries of the combat sphere.

It is a fully automated process carried out in three steps:

  1. Establishing consolidated track files and refining primary information provided by the sensors,
  2. Overcoming individual sensor limitations related to wavelength / frequency, field of regard, angular and distance resolution, etc., by sharing track information received from all the sensors,
  3. Assessing the confidence level of consolidated tracks, suppressing redundant track symbols and decluttering the displays.

The core of these enhanced capabilities of the Rafale lies in a new “Modular Data Processing Unit” (MDPU) that handles the data fusion.

The MDPU is the cornerstone of the Rafale’s upgradeability. It allows a seamless integration of new weapons and new capabilities to maintain the warfighting relevance of the Rafale over the years as tactical requirements evolve, and as the computer industry keeps rolling out new generations of processors and software.

It hinges on the computing power of the MDPU to process data from the RBE2-AESA electronic scanning radar, the “Front Sector Optronic” (FSO) system, the SPECTRA electronic warfare system, the IFF, the MICA infrared seekers, and the data broadcast by the other battlefield players via the data link.

A unique “Man-Machine Interface” (MMI)

Dassault Aviation has developed a very easy to use and extremely ergonomic pilot interface (MMI) that includes the “Hands on Throttle and Stick” (HOTAS) concept.

It relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment with the following capabilities:

  • For short-term actions, head-up flying using a wide-field-of-view “Head-up Display” (HUD) and the helmet-mounted display,
  • For medium and long-term actions, analysis of the tactical situation as a whole (the “big picture”), using a multi-image “Head-Level Display” (HLD). The HLD picture is focused at the same distance as the helmet-mounted display symbology to allow for fast eye transitions between the tactical displays in the cockpit and the external world,
  • Management of system resources via the left and right colour touch screens.

The comprehensive design of the cockpit provides for everything that aircrews can expect from an “Omnirole” fighter: a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear, a superior agility, an increased G-tolerance with 29° tilted seats, and an efficient air conditioning system demonstrated under all climates.