Recent photos show that, during platform tests in Goa, the Dassault Rafale M demonstrated great ski-jump carrying capacities.
Since the beginning of January 2022, Dassault Aviation and Team Rafale have been participating in a vast test campaign aimed at determining the performance of its fighter, the Rafale M (for Rafale Marine), to operate from an aircraft carrier. equipped not with catapults as for the PAN Charles de Gaulle of the French Navy, but with a springboard or ski-jump , like those which equip the two aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy, the INS Vikramaditya already in service and the 'INS Vikrant , the first locally built aircraft carrier to complete its sea trials.
If the French teams displayed obvious serenity about the results expected during these tests, it still remained for the device to demonstrate not only its ability to take to the air from such a springboard, but also to determine what would be the operational capabilities and limitations resulting from such a procedure, particularly in terms of fuel and weapons carrying capacities.
As usual, Dassault Aviation was hardly verbose about the results recorded, contenting itself with terse press releases meaning that everything was going as planned.
But a photo published on Indian social networks tells us more about the performance of the device in this configuration, suggesting that the Rafale would be close to being as comfortable on a springboard as with a catapult.
Indeed, this photo shows the Rafale M dedicated to testing in an impressive carriage configuration, with two 2000 liter subsonic canisters, 2 medium-range Mica EM missiles, two Mica IR self-defense missiles, and an anti-ship missile AM-39 Exocet under the fuselage, a configuration entirely comparable to that implemented by the French Navy from the Charles de Gaulle for anti-ship missions.
This photo, which there is no reason to doubt was taken after takeoff from the Goa test Ski-Jump, shows that the Rafale is capable of carrying heavy loads, more than 5.5 tonnes in external loads, and therefore to achieve a maximum take-off mass in the Ski jump configuration of between 20 and 21 tonnes, i.e. a mass very close to that commonly implemented on board the French aircraft carrier.
Above all, in this configuration, the Rafale has an exceptional operational range of nearly 1000 km, much greater than that, for example, achievable by the J-15s deployed from Chinese navy aircraft carriers.
Indeed, if the J-15 has a maximum take-off weight estimated at 27 tonnes, it also has an empty mass of 17 tonnes, and must expend considerably more energy, and therefore fuel, to get airborne and stay in flight than the Rafale and its 10.5 tonnes empty.
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