Rafale takes off from the Charles de Gaulle with a 3D printed part

Léo Barnier
le 10/03/2020 , Maintenance aéronautique
Additive manufacturing continues to make its mark gradually in the operational world. And military MRO isn't being left behind. At the end of February, the Chief of Staff of the French armed forces (EMA) indicated that a Rafale from the French Navy had taken off from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier with a 3D printed part onboard for the first time. The flight in question took place on 22nd January, during the initial days of the Foch mission (three-month deployment for the carrier group, with participation in the Chammal operation).

This project is the result of co-operation between the French Navy, the Direction de la maintenance aéronautique (DMAé - Aeronautical maintenance department) and Dassault Aviation. Confronted with a "technical event on a fuel tank drainage command unit" a few weeks before heading out on mission, the Charles de Gaulle's technicians computer-designed a model for a reinforcement for this part. They then produced a prototype, using the 3D printer which is now onboard the aircraft carrier.

The sailors then submitted their work for approval by the DMAé, which contacted Dassault Aviation over the central technical platform (PTC). This integrated Government-industry structure, which is based in Bordeaux, is in charge of support engineering for the Rafales under the RAVEL (or VErticalised RAfale) maintenance contract, which was awarded in May 2019.

According to the EMA, the PTC "slightly adapted" the model submitted by the Charles de Gaulle's technicians. Dassault Aviation then starting producing the part with its own resources, but still in additive manufacturing. The part was then able to be fitted to all of the Rafales in the onboard air group (GAE). The first flight took off the day after the carrier group left Toulon.

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DMAé Marine nationale Dassault Aviation RAVEL Rafale Charles de Gaulle


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