France’s Director General of Armamements (DGA) has commenced testing the helmet from the Scorpion combat vehicle on the Rafale fighter jet as part of its F4 standard, the next planned upgrade of the Rafale.
The French defense ministry said DGA carried out compatibility tests on the Thales Scorpion helmet sight on the Cazaux site (Gironde) with the parachute evacuation of a Rafale pilot. The parachute evacuation compatibility tests, carried out before the first Rafale flights, reproduce all the Rafale pilot's rescue and survival phases, from his ejection from the aircraft to his survival in an aquatic environment.
DGA first performed ground tests and the recent tests involved a suspended harness test carried out on the ground on a gantry to verify the impact of the helmet sight on the application of procedures during parachute flight after ejection; a ground test to check the release of the harness in the event of drag during a landing in strong winds; and a jump from an H225 helicopter carried out by a fully equipped test parachutist - the parachutist had therefore put on his combat vest, his anti-G pants and his survival pack, but also his harness and his emergency parachute.
The jump test made it possible to validate all the rescue and survival phases by checking correct deployment of the main parachute; visualization and location of the 2 wing maneuver controls; absence of discomfort during the landing and dragging phases; release of the parachute; and survival operations in the water.
The first results of the tests conducted by DGA Flight Tests show that the new helmet visor behaves similarly to the helmet currently in service. Initially developed for the land combatant, the Scorpion helmet sight is perfectly suited for use on Rafale. Its color screen can be used day and night.
The F4 standard is part of the ongoing process to continuously improve the Rafale in line with technological progress and operating experience feedback. The F4 standard marks a new step coming in the wake of the standards F1 (specific to the first aircraft of the French Navy), F2 (air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities), F3 and F3R (extended versatility).
The F4 standard will include upgraded radar sensors and front-sector optronics, as well as improved capabilities in the helmet-mounted display. It will have new weapons — notably MBDA’s Mica NG air-to-air missile and the 1,000-kilogram AASM air-to-ground modular weapon — and be able to carry the new Scalp missiles. It will also be equipped with the Talios multifunction optronic pod made by Thales.
The Rafale F4 will feature connectivity solutions to improve the aircraft’s effectiveness in network-centric warfare. “We’ll be able to receive more data, strengthen our data rate, talk, receive, notably thanks to satellite communication and software-defined radio: the Rafale F4 will move even further into the era of data,” Florence Parly, the French Defense Minister, had said in early 2019.
Validation of the F4 standard is planned for 2024, with some functions becoming available as of 2022.