What makes the essential difference is the Rafale’s “multi-sensor data fusion” process running on data provided by all the sensors of the aircraft.
In essence, the “multi-sensor data fusion” concept implemented into the Rafale allows the pilot to act as a true “tactical decision maker”, rather than being only a sensor operator.
The core of these enhanced capabilities of the Rafale lies in a new “Modular Data Processing Unit” (MDPU) incorporating “commercial off the shelf” (COTS) elements. It is composed of up to 19 flight “line-replaceable units” (LRUs), with 18 of them individually providing 50 times the processing power of a typical mission computer employed in previous generation fighters.
The MDPU is the cornerstone of the upgradeability of the Rafale. 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.
The “multi-sensor data fusion” provides a link between the battlespace surrounding the aircraft and the pilot’s brain with its unique ability to grasp the outcome of tactical situations and make sensible decisions.
It hinges on the computing power of the MDPU to process data from the RBE2-AESA radar, the “Front Sector Optronic” (FSO) system, the SPECTRA EW system, the IFF, the MICA infrared seekers, and the data link.
Multi-sensor data fusion
Implementation of the “multi-sensor data fusion” into the Rafale translates into accurate, reliable and strong tracks, uncluttered displays, reduced pilot workload, quicker pilot response, and eventually into increased situational awareness.
It is a full automated process carried out in three steps:
- Establishing consolidated track files and refining primary information provided by the sensors,
- 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,
- Assessing the confidence level of consolidated tracks, suppressing redundant track symbols and decluttering the displays.
A unique Man-Machine Interface (MMI)
Dassault Aviation has developed a very easy to use pilot interface (MMI), combining the “Hands on Throttle and Stick” (HOTAS) control concept with touch screens. 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 holographic “Head-up Display” (HUD),
- 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 HUD picture to allow for fast eye transitions between head-up and head-down displays and the external world’s view,
- Management of system resources via the left and right color 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-protection with 29° tilted seats, and an efficient air conditioning system demonstrated under all climates.