Rafale M French Navy Fighter/bomber
Last updated: Jamuary 1, 2016 - Decals, Touch-up, canopy, complete
Introduction - Dassault Rafale M Fighter/Bomber
The Rafale M is the French Navy version of France's most modern, multi-role aircraft. It is a twin-engine, canard, delta wing, multirole aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. It can be equipped with a wide range of weapons, to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions for the French Navy.
In the mid-1970s, both the French Air Force and Navy had requirements for a new generationn fighter to replace the aircraft it already had in service, as well as the ones that were about to enter service at the time. Because requirements for the two services were similar, and to reduce cost, a common request for proposal was issued. In 1979, Dassault joined the MBB/BAe "European Collaborative Fighter" (ECA) project which was renamed the "European Combat Aircraft". The French contributed the aerodynamic layout of a prospective twin-engine, single-seat fighter; however, the project collapsed in 1981 due to differing operational requirements of each country and France dropped out. In 1983, the nations remaining in the joint effort renamed it the "Future European Fighter Aircraft" (FEFA) programme for Italy, Spain, West Germany, and the United Kingdom to jointly develop what would ultimately become the new Euro-fighter Typhoon.
in the mean time, France reiterated its own requirement in 1984 for a new fighter. The proposed aircraft was to be for a multi-rile figher for both the Air Force and a naval, carrier-capable version that would be lighter than the Euro Fighter EFA design, and would be France's own programme. The multi-role aspect envisoned an aircraft capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground, all-day and adverse weather operations. Unlike the Eurofighter program, France was the sole developer of the new aircraft...which came to be known as the Rafale. The Rafale was being designed to perform roles previously filled by an assortment of specialised platforms, including the Jaguar, F-8 Crusader, Mirage F1C/CR/CT, Mirage 2000C/-5/N, Étendard IVP/M and Super Étendard.
The result produced a technology demonstrator that was rolled out in December 1985 in Saint-Cloud, and completed its maiden flight on July 4, 1986 from Istres-Le Tubé Air Base in southern France. Throughout the flight test programme, the Rafale performed numerous day and night take-offs and landings aboard the carriers Clemenceau and Foch to investigate the pilot's field of view during carrier operations. It reached a speed of Mach 2 (2,450 km/h; 1,522 mph; 1,322.9 kn) and a height of 13,000 metres (42,000 ft). On April 21, 1988, the French government awarded Dassault a contract for four Rafale prototypes: one Rafale C Air Force version, two Rafale M naval versions, and one Rafale B two seat aircraft..
The Rafale M would feature a greatly reinforced undercarriage to cope with the additional stresses of naval landings, an arrestor hook, and "jump strut" nosewheel, which only extends during short takeoffs, including catapult launches. It would also feature a built-in ladder, carrier-based microwave landing system, and the new fin-tip Telemir system for syncing the inertial navigation system to external equipment. Altogether, the naval modifications of the Rafale M increase its weight by 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) compared to other versions. Just the same, the Rafale M retains about 95 percent commonality with Air Force variant. Though unusual for a carrier-borne aircraft in being unable to fold its multi-spar wings to reduce storage space, the wing-span is sufficiently small for this not to be a major consideration, particularly with the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, France's first nuclear-powered carrier, which is considerably larger than previous carriers, Foch and Clemenceau.
The first "M" prototype, M01, first flew on December 12, 1991, followed by a second on 8 November 8, 1993. Since France had no land-based catapult test facility, catapult trials were initially carried out between July–August 1992 at the US Navy Lakehurst, NJ, land-based facility. The aircraft then carried out trials aboard the carrier Foch in April 1993.
Deliveries of the Rafale M were a high priority for France in order to replace it's aging F-8 Crusaders. The first production model for the French Navy was rolled out in 1999 and completed its first flight on July 7, 1999. Their first deployment aboard the Charles de Gualle was in March 2002, when the aircraft carrier was stationed in the Gulf of Oman, where its Rafales underwent training operations.
The Rafale M has proven to be an excellent multi-role airfract for the French Navy and is considered along with the US Navy Super Hornet, amongst the best carrier borne naval aircraft in the world, though the F-35C stealth fighter, which will be the only 5th generation naval aircraft, will challenge that. The Rafale M is the only non-US fighter cleared to operate from the decks of US nuclera powered carriers for combat operations. Qualification testing for this occurred in 2008 when six Rafales from Flottille 12F integrated into the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Air Wing for interoperability exercises.
More recenlty the Rafale M has been used heavily in the Mid-East, operating off of the Charles de Gualle, striking ISIS strongholds and military targets in response to the ISIS terror attack in Paris in 2015.
To date, a total of 44 Rafle M aircraft (out of an order for 60) have been delivered to the French Navy.
What's in the Box - December 24, 2015
Hobby Boss makes excellent model kits, particulary aircraft models. They are very well molded, have excellent instructions, excellent decals, and excellent painting instructions.
This Rafale M is no exception. There are five sprues molded in light gray and one sprue molded in clear plastic for the canopy. The fuselage comes in two pieces, an upper and lower piece. Altogther there are 118 pieces to the aircraft.
It comes with a decent loadout of two SCALP air launched cruise missiles (ALCM) and four air to air missiles, along with three fuel tanks. I intend to load mine up with two shortrange IR air to air missiles, two longer range radar guided air to air missiles, a single SCALP missile, two fuel tanks, and two Paveway lasr guided bombs. The Paveway bombs I will take from a separate, after market NATO weapons pack in 1/72 scale.
Instructions are very good, and the decals are also great. There are decals for two aircraft, one French Navy Rafale M of 12F N5 and another of N2.
Painting schemes for both comes in full color glossy. Very nice.
Here is the model with its box, the parts, the decals and the instructions:
This should be a really nice build and represents one of the premier naval strike fighters available today.
The Build Cockpit, Landing gear, exhaust, intakes, fuselage, weapons - December 30, 2015
I started by gathering the parts for, painting, and then assembling the cockpit, including the decals. This cockipit is fairly decent. Not as detailed as some of the after market cockpits you can buy, but certainly very satisfactory for the kit.
I then built the landing gear and painted them, assembled and then painted the tires, and then added them to the lower fuselage. I also built the jet exhaust assembly for the two jet engines.
At this point I built the air intakes for the engines, one on each side and below the wing. Once completed, I assembled the fuselage, adding the jet exhaust, the canards forward of the main delta wing, the nose, and the vertical stabilizor.
Once this was completed, the basic struture for the aircraft was done.
I then worked on the weapons load I had decided to give the aircraft.
The kit comes with two Mica short range (SR) air to air missiles, two Mica medium range (MR) air to air missiles, two SCALP/Apache Air launched cruise missiles (ALCM), two 2,000 liter fuel tanks, and two 1,250 liter fuel tanks.
The aircraft can carry, as noted above, many other weapons. I decided to load this aircraft with a strong self defense air to air load, and a strong air to ground loadout, for a long range mission. I have a Testors NATO 1/72 scale weapons pack, and so I added a couple og Paveway III MK-84, 2,000 lbs bombs from that kit.
This makes my loadout of the aircraft the following:
2 x Mica Infrared guided Short Range (SR) Air to Air Missile
I assembled the pieces (particularly for the SCALP ACLM this involved an assembly of eight pieces), painted them, and then added decals. I then glued them onto the aircraft:
This is looking very good.
I will finsish the aircraft in the next session. Adding the cockpit canopy (which I am going to show open), a few more detail parts (like the in-air refueling probe), and then do the touch up painting and the final dull coats.
The Build Decals, Touch-up, canopy, complete - January 1, 2015
I began this session by adding the decals for this aircraft. I decided to use the dealcs for aircraft number 5. There are not too many of them, but they really do make a difference in the resntation. A total of 24 decals added.
I then added the canopy and an access ladder to the aircraft. I am showing the aircraft with the canopy open, preparing for the pilot to enter the aircraft. The canopy hinges to the left, with the ladder on the right. I also added the distinctive refueling probe that the aircraft has.
At this point it was time to do some touch up paint and then add the dull coat finish paint. Once that was completed, it was time to simply take the completed pictures of the aircraft.
...and some close-ups:
And there you have it. France's most advanced fighter aircraft, the naval version, the Rafale M stirke fighter.
I thought I would, as an aside, do a little comparison between the 1/72 scale US Navy Strike aircraft (F/A-18F and F-35C) and the Rafale M. Here they are side by side:
The F/A-18F is a larger aircraft, with two pilots, and it can carry more under each wing, along with the hard points under its fuselage. But the Rafale M is pretty amazing for what it can carry given its size. It is also a newer aircraft and the French have developed some unique innovations for it, and I believe it has excellent sensor fusion capabilities, at least on par with, if not better than, the F/A-18E/F. Now, the newer Advanced Super Hornet that is being proposed will probably equal or eclipse whatever advantages the Rafale M may have in that area.
All in all, I would say that the Rafale M is probably right up there and on par with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in terms of over all capability.
The F-35C, which is just in the process of reaching towards initial operational capability and has only recenelty completed its second carrier qualifications, is a true 5th generation stealth airraft. It is more stealthy than the two, has the best sensor fusion, and when it fully utilizies its internal bays and hard points outside of the internal bays, can carry as much as the other two. It also has longer range.
But it is an interesting comparison. The French Rafale M is a very good, modern, highly capable carrier strike aircraft. Adn as stated above, it is the only other nation carrier strike aircraft that has qualified to conduct combat operations off of a US Navy nuclear carrier.
The completion of the PLAN Carrier group was centered on the already completed Trumpeter's 1/350 scale PLA Navy's Aircraft Carrier CV-16, Liaoning, (in addition to the other escorts already completed) included Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168. I recently pre-ordered a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, announced by Trumpeter and due out in October, 2013. I will end up adding two of those, propbably LPD-998 Yuzhao and LPD-999, Jinggangshan, add the PLAN- DDG-139, Ningbo, and the PLAN DDG-115, Shenyang, along with the PLAN Weifang, FFG-550 and thus build a PLAN ARG.
The completion of the US Carrier Strike group was centered on the completed Tamyia's 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-65, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) included Trumpeter's, USS Freedom, LCS-1, Dragon's USS Preble, DDG-88 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) is released from Trumpeter, Tamiya, Dragon, or whomever else, I will add it to this group along with another AEGIS Cruiser. Whichever Ford Class coms out in 1/350 scale, I will build it as the USS Enterprise, CVN-80.
The US ARG will include Tamiya's 1/350 scale, USS Iowa, BB-62 (which I have already completed), Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Iwo Jima LHD-7, Gallery's 1/350 scale USS Sommerset, LPD-25, Bronco Models 1/350 Scale USS New York, LPD-21, Cyber Hobby's USS Independence, LCS-2, Acadamy's 1/350 scale USS Rueben James, FFG-57, and another Flight IIA US AEGIS class detroyer based on Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Lassen, DDG-82...all of these models which I already own.
The completion of the UK Group featured the Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Illustrious, R06 as its centerp[iece until a 1/350 scale Queen Elizabeth carrier is released. When that happens, I will add that carrier to the group as its centerpiece. The Royal Navy CSG will also include two Airfix 1/350 scale Daring Class DDGs (one of which is already completed), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Type 23 HMS Duke class Frigates (one of which is already completed), and the Hobby Boss 1/350 scale HMS Astute SSN (which is also already completed) and Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Tragalgar SSN. One day, when a 1/350 scale HMS Ocean LPD come out, I will use tt to start building a Royal Navy ARG.
The French CSG was completed and is centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle, R91. I also built the 1/400 scale Heller French De Grasse, D612 DDG, which is an ASW DDG, and the French Aconit D612 FFG and Gueprattet F714 FFGs, both of which are Lafayette class frigates. These four vessels round out my French CSG. As soon as a French Robin class nuclear sub, like the French Perale S606 SSN is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will purchase it and add it to the CSG. One day, when the models come out, I will purchase two 1/350 scale Mistral Class LPDs so I can create a French ARG with those vessels.
The completion of the Japanese JMSDF group was centered on Fujimi's very finely detailed, 1/350 scale Hyuga, DDH-181. It will be escorted by Trumpeter's 1/350 scale DDG-177, Atago, an AEGIS class DDG and the JMSDF, DDG-174, Kongo class (which I own), Trumpeters's 1/350 scale DDG-114 Susunami and DDG-111 (both of which are Takinami Class DDGs which I own), and by the 1/350 scale SS-503 Hakuryu (which I own), one of Japans new, very modern and capable AIP Diesel Electric submarines. As soon as a DDG-115 Akizuki in 1/350 scale is released, I will add it to this group. Should a 1/350 scale Osumi Class LPD be relased, I will buy two of those vessels and create a JMSDF ARG.
The completion of the Russian CSG (centered on Trumpeter's Kuznetsov which I own) the Russian Kirov Class nuclear battle cruiser (CGN), the Peter the Great, by Trumpeter (which I own), the Russian Slava Class cruiser, Varyag by Trumperter, a Trumpeter 1/350 scale Udaloy DDG, Hobby Boss's Akula II class SSN, the new Yasen class Russian SSN, and the Zevzda Oscar II SSGN, all in 1/350 scale.
Recently I purchased Heller's 1/400 scale Foch, the Clemceau Class carrier that was sold to the Brazilians in 2000 and in 2002 was refitted and became the Brazilian CV, Sao Paulo, using steam catapaults. I built the model as the Sao Paulo and thus started a Brazilian group. I will need to find a 1/350 scale Type 22 DDGs and the FFGs the Brazilians use which are not available at present. I did purchased a set of 1/400 scale A-4 Skyhawks and S-3 Trackers and built those as a suitable airwing for the Sao Paulo.
Then, again, once the models are available, I'd like to build an Italian Carrier Strike Group centered on the Cavour and their Horizon DDGs, a Spanish Carrier Strike Group centered on the Juan Carlos and their F-100 AEGIS FFGs, and ultimatly an Australian Strike Group centered on the new Canberra Class LPD and the Hobart class AEGIS DDGs. If they ever build the models, an Indian Carrier Strike Group centered on either the Vikramaditya or their new ADS Carrier, the Vikrant, and their Kolkata class DDGs and Shivlak class FFGs would also be nice.
Years more worth of work!
You can see all of these actual carriers, read their histories and specifictions at my site:
...and most of their surface escorts at:
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