Let’s talk about the two French Rafales damaged in a mid-air collision a few days ago

The severed vertical caudal fin recovered 8 km from the air base. In the box: the moments following the collision, with the fall of the debris to the ground. (Picture via Twitter)

The incident occurred during a tactical demonstration at Air Base 709 Cognac. Both managed to land.

Two French Air & Space Force Rafale C fighter jets were involved in a mid-air collision on May 22, 2022, during the airshow taking place at Air Base 709 Cognac/Châteaubernard, France. The planes were carrying out the tactical demonstration of the Vautour Bravo team when, around 12:40 local time, for causes under investigation, they made contact.

According to the few information availablethe two Rafales rejoined the formation after a high-speed pass over the air base and a break in formation. Although they suffered structural damage, both planes were able to land safely.

Some leaked photos show that one of the planes involved was the “Rogue Spartan”, the special color prepared by the 3/30 “Lorraine” Fighter Wing of Air Base 118 Mont-de-Marsan for the NATO Tiger Meet 2022 The aircraft also won the Silver Tiger Trophy, the top prize awarded during the fiscal year, as well as the Best Tiger Aircraft award.

The photos clearly show the damage to both aircraft. The “Rogue Spartan” lost the top of its vertical stabilizer in the collision, who fell in a nearby village about eight kilometers from the air base and was recovered by civilians. The aircraft also sustained lighter damage to the left wing and wingtip missile rail.

The second aircraft, wearing the standard low-visibility livery, had damage and scratches to the right side of the fuselage, as well as a badly bent canard. A Radar Warning Receiver antenna of the Spectra electronic warfare system (Système de Protection et d’Avoidance des Conduites de Tir du Rafale or, in English, Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft) on the right air intake.

Damage to both jets involved. (Photos via Twitter, authors unknown)

Photos posted on Twitter also appear to show the moments immediately following the mid-air collision, with debris falling to the ground.

“During their tactical presentation, two Rafales from the 30th Fighter Wing touched each other in flight,” Colonel Nicolas Lyautey, commander of Cognac-Châteaubernard, told reporters. “One of them lost a piece of its tail fin, which damaged the roof of a house when it fell.”

The Accident Investigation Bureau for State Aeronautics Safety has opened an investigation to find out the causes of the collision between the two fighter planes. “A rare thing,” added Colonel Lyautey. “In aviation, there is only one priority: safety. We have to understand what happened”.

As David Cenciotti explained in a previous post here at The Aviator:

“There is always a risk of a mid-air collision when two (or more) aircraft fly close to each other. Although some collisions in the past have occurred due to breakdowns or during engagements, air-to-air combat maneuvers, many (more) happened as fully serviceable aircraft joined the formation.

This phase of the flight can be extremely dangerous, especially at night: the two pilots, flying in a deployed tactical formation, must tighten up the formation. The lead plane is hit by the wingman, the latter being first forced to keep a higher speed (otherwise he wouldn’t hit the leader) and then suddenly reduce his speed to match the plane’s speed of head. A distraction can be fatal.

And don’t forget how fast the plane flies from then until landing: again, sudden movement, distraction, thus human error, could cause the flight. »

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in industrial engineering, he is also studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Electronic warfare, vagrant ammunition and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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