According to stringent customer requirements, ease of support has also driven RAFALE design very early, and thus drastically reduced its logistic footprint for simple deployability. To boost reliability, accessibility and maintainability, clever technologies have been favoured to limit the manpower:
- Comprehensive and accurate integrated testability covers all aircraft systems, and allows rapid printed circuit boards/modules exchanges at flight line
- Ergonomy studies ensure swift and error free tasks: only one action to manage the safety of the 14 stores, gun, chaffs and flares
- No airframe/engine overhaul at depot, no run-up after engine change: aircraft do not leave their base for maintenance as cumulated scheduled tasks last a few days per year
- No heavy external mean or specific infrastructure: no engine test bench required
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 program. “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:
Based on 20 years plus of experience gained on the MIRAGE 2000, integrated testability of the Weapon Delivery and Navigation System (WDNS) has proven itself. Accordingly, it has been decided on the RAFALE to extend it to all aircraft systems.
Thanks to accurate and comprehensive testability features, it allows targeted replacements to be made on the flight line, down to electronic circuit boards and specific components.
Human factors engineering work has been conducted with CATIA in order to ensure the accessibility of the components within aircraft bays, so that all flight line operations can be carried out by a single technician. Special attention has been paid to minimizing the duration of these operations and the occurrence of errors.
The centralised armament safety system makes all safety pins and last chance / end-of-runway actions unnecessary, minimising the risk of errors and accidents, and contributing to achieve an unbeatable “turn around time” (TAT).
Precision manufacturing techniques together with the use of CATIA eliminate time-consuming boresighting procedures following cannon, head-up display (HUD) or radar exchanges.
The groundbreaking design of the M88 suppresses the requirement for a check on a dedicated engine test bench before reinstalling it back on the aircraft.
Deployments on forward operating bases, including austere airfields, have been made easier by keeping ground support equipment to a minimum:
- The RAFALE is fitted with an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) which suppresses the need for liquid oxygen re-filling. Ground support equipment for the production and transportation of oxygen is no longer required
- Optronics are cooled by a closed-loop nitrogen circuit, which negates the need for a dedicated nitrogen supply chain.
- The built-in auxiliary power unit (APU) makes engine start-up possible even when no ground power cart is available.
- All ground support equipment is compact and foldable in order to be easily transportable by air. It can be used without external power. And only two types of carriages and cradles are necessary to perform all armament loading / unloading.
All these maintainability features have been thoroughly assessed and validated by French Navy and French Air Force maintainers.