Captain Romain : Rafale Pilot in Afghanistan
Exclusive Interview conducted by Iowan Thoraval Captain Romain , you have served in Afghanistan with the Rafale . In actual operations , what are the qualities of the device? What brings you there in situations of stress such that you could live in ?
In actual operation , the driver Rafale appreciates its first interoperability link data (Known as L16 ), which allows it to easily find the display on other aircraft and especially tankers. In an environment where the rule of see and avoid premium , it is very important ...
Finally, the autonomy of our new aircraft brings an undeniably more certain : we can stay longer in support of the troops who seek our help. For a foot soldier in the heart of Afghanistan , this is not a detail that he can count on us for a long time ...
This winter we will be equipped with a laser designation pod we will include information from the sky to ground troops on their environment or to gain autonomy if we were to rescue them .The preparation and execution of a mission Rafale does differ from those on an aircraft like the Mirage 2000?
The preparation and execution of a mission Rafale does not differ from those of an aircraft as Mirage 2000Even if the crews on the Rafale , everything is easier and safer , thanks to the plane: having two engines instead of one, it counts as operating in France is much safer .In a machine as complex in terms of technology, what are the aids to maintenance? What is the rate of aircraft availability from the Mirage 2000 also present in Afghanistan ?
Maintenance is computerized and it is very fast and very effective : In 12 months of presence in Afghanistan , the Rafale has cancelled one mission for a technical problem , which is really very good in terms of availability ...You mention in your book of the fear of fratricide or fatal to people. On a theater like Afghanistan , where Taliban can closely mingled with the population , the firing of weapons seems to be impossible. What are the procedures to be observed by a pilot ? And did he have the right to refuse to deliver his weapons if he feels the situation demands it?
I can not reveal here the rules of engagement that we are required to follow in Afghanistan . What is certain is that on one hand our rules of engagement, we guarantee this kind of disaster and other crews are very careful not to commit the irreparable .Your squadron participated in Exercise Red Flag in 2008 , in order to prepare the French air forces in tactical interoperability . Were you present ? What did you learn from this exercise?
Our allies were clearly amazed by our new GPS -powered bomb ( called AASM for Air Armament Modular Floor ) , our autonomy and our total versatility .In a video debriefing , it is clearly stated by Col. Terrence Fornof that the Rafale did not clearly incurred during this period but have scanned most of the other aircraft emissions . http://canadadefencesovereignty.blogspot.com/2008/11 / indian - air - force - red- flag - critique.html A clarification on this?
Make a Red Flag for French fighter pilot , is the absolute dream . Think for one second that French might have a chance to participate without commitment to an is just proof of a breach of our state of mind.Earlier this year of war " size " , a detachment went on the basis of Luke in Arizona . Sirpa A video shows the F-16 in bad shape . American pilots have looked very impressed by the aggressiveness of the Rafale in close combat. An officer praised the men and the aircraft with a term unequivocal : " Outstanding " . Beyond the political differences between governments, seem very strong ties linking the French and American pilots . What do you think of ?
Our nations are linked by history: we are the first U.S. allies .
Finally , beyond nationalities , the same passion animates all fighter pilots. And as this business is our favorite topic of conversation , the links are created always very pale when one thinks .After the Dubai Airshow in 2009 , an exercise called Advanced Tactical Leadership Course ( DPAC ) , was first seen confronting planes hunting the latest from the base of Al Dhafra . Some information has filtered the results of commitments and they are very surprising about the capabilities of the Rafale. Surprising because the habit is rather to hear or read in the French press unflattering remarks about the French aircraft . How to interpret this phenomenon ?
An exercise level TRA is a litmus test for aircraft, crews and mechanics. Based on men who serve, the Rafale was shown in this exercise all its combat effectiveness. France has a large aviation history , it is normal that we produce excellent aircraft and it is clearly the case with the Rafale.Turning now to the results of this exercise. The commander of your squadron speaks of " putting sheets "for UK participants Eurofhigter equipped with a ratio of seven victories for one, with the gradient of side arms of the Rafale. What do we degraded weapons and what were the rules of engagement?
In a commitment to TRA , two Rafale engaged , using their whole system but simulating a weapon that requires taking more risk than normal , four Eurofighter . The two Rafale Typhoon kills four who used all their normal abilities, without loss . The rules of engagement were "beyond visual range "- " beyond visual range " .
( For the experts, the Rafale were then simulated using a semi-active missile while the missile is normally used by the Rafale is an active missile , which can be put away quickly after a shot . )
And what are the differences between the two weapon systems , whether in terms of sensors and apprehension of information thereof by the driver?
All have always dreamed of hundreds of fighter pilots in the Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000 became reality in the Rafale. It is the fruit of a long common adventure between Dassault and the French Air Force . The Rafale is the culmination of decades of experience in military aviation .
Finally , the Rafale fighter aircraft the most complete:
It is extremely formidable in maneuvering and so Dogfight . For example, faced with a Eurofighter engaged in combat with a view to starting to equality, we know we need a few tens of seconds to validate a ' gun kill '.
In air combat BVR (beyond visual range, ie at ranges of several tens of kilometers) , the system provides Rafale summarize the information they need from multiple sensors. This information is therefore more accurate. We can do without one or two sensors throughout a fight while remaining extremely dangerous for the enemy . This gives us access to new tactics of particular interest.
Finally, with an extension greater than the previous generation aircraft , it carries two times more air - ground weapons . The AASM , the new GPS French bomb that is powered over tens of kilometers , gives the Rafale 's ability to replace itself in several Mirage is at once more efficient and taking much less risk.
The Eurofighter is a plane built for aerial combat and he does less well than the Rafale , which is yet versatile ( air combat , bombing, reconnaissance ) .And the aerodynamic capabilities of the extraordinary French plane ?
Dassault has a skill which is at the forefront of what is done fighter in the world thanks to its latest Mirage. This expertise does not just happen , it talks .The most impressive part of the exercise TRA is the confrontation with members of your squadron have been facing the American F -22 Raptor , described by all observers as a kind of ultimate weapon air , largely in advance to all levels , without rival . Little information has filtered out face to face Franco- American . Why Americans Have restricted only to pass the battle cannon and what were the configurations of carrying two devices ?
What is certain is that limiting a single fight in close combat gun , it does not really make sense today: even very close to another aircraft and face to face , our missiles are infrared Mica capable of destroying their target . However , during his various battles against the guns Raptor , Rafale has had many opportunities to shoot Mica IR, unannounced , as not forming part of the framework agreed by the Americans for such liabilities. Both planes were smooth .What you have told your colleagues on the behavior of American fighter ? That represents a plane so advanced for you ?
The Rafale is a very successful aircraft that does not need his radar to fight a " beyond visual range . It's a plane with whom everything is easy, probably the biggest masterpiece of Dassault. The Raptor is a beautiful plane, but the Rafale is clearly an excellent choice for France .
A mirage 2000-9 UAE piloted by a French cannon succeeded a pass on an F - 22. What give reason to Eric Gerard when he said that the thrust vector is not useful in combat . You are talking about close air combat exercise as a random, subject to factors beyond the qualities of the aircraft themselves . What do you mean by that?
In close combat , it teaches that "the view that's life . " Indeed, if we see a little too late the other aircraft , the battle may be lost before it began. Or have the " tally "( I see another plane) in time is a random exercise even when it was the sight of a fighter pilot : aircraft approach each other at about 2000 km / h and the other aircraft may also come from the area near the dazzling sun ... This is an example , there are other random factors.
Finally , I think that Eric Gerard is right to say that the thrust vector is useless : we have seen.The Rafale , the F- 22, the only aircraft in service with stealth characteristics . I've heard in a meeting that was secretive side . You have a unique instrument known as optronics frontal area . What is this tool and what benefits can you draw in air combat ?
This is a camera equipped with a laser rangefinder and located on the nose of our plane. So weather permitting , we can move completely from the radar . We can also visually identify the aircraft that we have persevered and at distances that ensure our safety.
The Rafale is the first truly omnirôle plane . That is to say that he is able to perform all the functions previously specialized aircraft to a single type of missions in a single flight. Do you have a concrete illustration implementing the full range of tools available on the Rafale , including electronic warfare ?
Every day we train to make the most versatility of the Rafale . For example , there is little I worked for a young driver a scenario where we had to move to within a territory defended by aircraft to perform radar mapping , find all our 12 targets , simulating bombardment with our A2SM and leave. Thus within a few minutes, my young team-mate and I have simulated the two of us firing five air-air missiles and 12 bombs, air to ground using all the capabilities of our radar and while scrambling . We have not suffered losses and we have inflicted some kills to our adversaries .
Captain Cedric "Rut " Ruet said sometimes cash load factors of up to 11 G depending on the configuration of its demonstration . How a pilot can withstand such accelerations without losing consciousness ? Have you been subjected to such strong acceleration during your mission ?
The Rafale is the most comfortable aircraft I know. The tilt of its head enables us to collect more easily than G Mirage 2000, for example . The commitment of combat sight is when we may need to take as many G : the first turn often determines the outcome of the battle ...Almost 25 years have passed since the first flight of demonstrator. Considering the increasing technological complexity of equipment, a country like France could she build only the next generation of fighter aircraft ? Y would he have only one ?
France has a prestigious history in the construction of fighter aircraft. We all remember the qualities of its time the Mirage III for example. I do not see how France could not take his share in the next generation of fighter aircraft.
Some see a military air entirely devoted to robots, drones . This vision is realistic? What is the singularity of a pilot in command of a fighter ?
I think the UAV is remotely piloted the future . Not necessarily on the model that flies in Afghanistan right now , but probably closer to the fighter. A pilot brings his view of 360 degrees and experience . Until now it is clear that the perception of a remote environment is much more partial than that allowed by the presence of the driver directly into the cockpit . When technologies will overcome the cockpit , the drone will definitely not on the plane that we know today . How does your daily training in Saint- Dizier ?
When we start our day , we organize our work according to the flight on which we are programmed . We are dedicated to it , at least two hours before takeoff . This minimum period allows us to be aware of weather conditions , to determine the educational objectives of the flight , choose the tactics we will use and prepare the mission and the pre-flight briefing .
In a complex preparation , the preparation time can quickly exceed the half - dozen hours .
The flight lasts about one hour. Frequently we train to refuel in flight, mechanically delaying our landing . Those who have read my book will understand that this training is not redundant ... Sometimes we train as long flights , exceeding the 5am flight.
Once the flight is completed, we unload the data from the flight for each aircraft involved in an analysis system that allows us to draw all the lessons of our mission to all crew members. This phase may take 1:00 to 2:00 .
Thus a standard flight we monopolized on average over five hours .
Our training is part of our daily activity . If we are programmed flight once a day on average , it is also certain that the experienced fighter pilots spend most of their time to train younger .
This is true on all combat aircraft and this is particularly true for the Rafale : This aircraft is a real leap forward in technology and new possibilities that are open to us , lead us to rethink and rewrite the front of our training programs and that our tactics. It is a volume close to 2000 pages very techniques that have already been rewritten and we strive to refine ever more efficiency .
While some may write the other , younger , use their time ' free ' to learn this material.
To talk about something lighter, I'd like to ask you what are your readings and what they bring you ?
I read to get me out of my environment specialist , disconnect my brain that I love this job and turn my attention fully to my family when I am resting .
I particularly liked " Zen and the Art of Archery " of Eugen Herrigel, " Night Flight " Antoine de Saint Exupery " Brave New World " Aldous Huxley " Fear and Trembling " Amelie Nothomb and " Samurai Saburo Sakai .
As any fighter pilot who respects himself , of course I devoured " Hunter brothers " Lissy and Mark " The Big Show " of Clostermann .
Finally, what does it feel to fly at 15,000 feet and Mach 1.6 ?
It is a moment of great calm and a rare experience .
At this altitude , it is not crowded and the air traffic controller did not need to multiply the radio messages to coordinate our flight with other aircraft in the vicinity : all our natural environment becomes quieter .
The less dense air does not allow the airplane to move with the same vivacity that low altitude while his movements are slower .
At this height , flying at Mach 1.60 is not seen really, but is measured with pleasure. For example, I had the opportunity to fly over the city of Dijon , six minutes after leaving the city center of Lyon ...
So while you move clearly faster , everything seems slow.
But what I like most at this altitude is that you can see by looking at the horizon 360 degrees it has a slightly rounded ... Then of course , I'd go even a little.
Captain Romain is the author of Rafale in Afghanistanwar diary describing his experience in combat against the Taliban .