French Air Force and Navy authorities are jointly working to develop an autopilot terrain-following capability for its single-seat Rafale fighters.
The terrain-following capability, which is to undergo flight trials by the Air Force's Centre d'Expériences Aériennes Militaires, or military aircraft test center, and the French Navy's Détachement du Centre d'Expérimentations Pratiques de l'Aéronautique Navale, or Naval Aviation Flight Trials Detachment, would allow single-seat Rafales to perform fire support missions as well as intercept unidentified aircraft flying at very low altitude, even through low cloud cover.
"Integrated into the aircraft, this flight control mode allows it to fly at high speed and low level over the ground or sea, the French Air Force said. "In complete safety and under all weather conditions, the aircraft can operate at very low level by day and night thanks to its sophisticated advanced autopilot, which protects the crew by preventing the aircraft from impacting natural (terrain features) and artificial (antennas, bridges, cables, etc) obstacles. The crew is thus free to concentrate on the prosecution of its mission, on surviving in a hostile environment and on achieving its operational objectives."
Information on how far development of the system has progressed and when flight trials may begin was not disclosed in the service's announcement.