FMS Dassault Rafale

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author: Jon Barnes | barnesjonr@gmail.com

A new, exquisitely detailed EDF jet

First Impressions

The global pandemic that began its worldwide surge early in 2020 resulted in a manufacturing malaise that affected the new product output of nearly every company within the RC industry. FMS’s official release of the first new model for 2021, an excitingly detailed and brightly colored 80 mm EDF-powered Dassault Rafale, inspires a hope that the new year will bring a return to 2019’s seemingly nonstop, rapid-fire release of one new model after another. FMS’s marketing materials report that this model took nearly two years to design and bring to market.

Powered by the well-proven FMS 12-blade 80 mm EDF power system, this Rafale features functional canards, a full house of fixed and flashing navigation and landing LEDs, flaps, removable armament, aluminum suspension-equipped struts, and an eye-popping, bright yellow/dark blue French Air Force commemorative scheme that pilots will either admiringly adore or disdainfully dislike.

Assembly

pieces and part

The fit and finish of this EPO foam-composition model right out of the box is incredible. The paint is evenly applied and vibrant, and the brightly colored graphics are expertly printed and applied.

FMS uses a number of plastic pieces to protect the foam airframe in locations typically vulnerable to hangar rash and normal wear and tear. A 2 mm hex driver is all that is required to assemble the primary airframe components. Seven identical metal fasteners get that job done.

Pilots should exercise caution when mating the wing halves to the fuselage; the inboard edge of the flaps are designed to index into subtle, slightly rounded receivers on the fuselage.

The wiring for all of the wing-mounted electronics is transferred into the fuselage via multipin connectors. The canards are anchored in place using small setscrews, which index into flats ground onto the rotating shaft. Pilots will still need to visually align the two canards so they are attached at exactly the same pitch and angle. The included foam missiles and tanks are removable. I had difficulty in getting the large fuselage centerline-mounted tank to slide fully into place on its short, plastic mounting pins.

All of the control surface mixing inherent to a Delta-wing model are handled by the factory-installed control module. Additional functionality ultimately controlled by this module include the sequencing of the gear doors, the flaps, and control of the LED lighting system.

With the flaps retracted, the ailerons and flaps function in tandem for both the roll and pitch axes. FMS hardcodes the amount of takeoff and landing flaps deflection with a subtle amount of canard deflection and aileron reflex also mixed in. An FMS Reflex provides pilots with three modes of gyro-driven stabilization.

Flying

I found that positioning the flight battery (a six-cell 5,000 mAh) as far aft as possible allowed me to just hit the front edge of the recommended 110 to 130 mm center of gravity (CG) range. Dropping from a six-cell 5,000 mAh battery to a slightly lighter 4,000 to 4,500 mAh battery pack is the next option in attaining a more aft CG.

My first takeoff attempt did double duty as a landing gear durability test. I typically use some amount of flaps for departures, mainly for the way in which they can shorten the takeoff rollout and make for a more gradual and realistic-looking shallow angle of departure.

With half flaps selected on the Rafale, I eased the throttle forward and sent the Rafale accelerating down the runway. With roughly 2/3 of the runway behind the model, I still could not get it to respond to my feathered application of up-elevator. I dumped the throttle and held on as the Rafale roared off the end of the runway and into the rough, unimproved expanse beyond.

Expecting the worst, I was impressed to find that the tricycle gear had survived the off-road excursion with no damage or distortion whatsoever! Bravo FMS! Subsequent takeoffs were performed without any flaps.

Getting the Rafale to rotate into the air in a believably scalelike manner (e.g. rotation into a maintained shallow angle of departure) can be tricky. The Rafale tends to stick to the runway and when it does finally release, it fairly explodes upwards into the air. Shifting the CG rearward might help minimize this effect.

With the flaps in the up position, the entire trailing edge of the wing (outboard ailerons and inboard flaps) function together in response to any applied inputs to both the pitch and roll axes. As one would expect, this creates an impressively fast, drill-like roll rate!

In the air, the Rafale is nimble and responsive. Like most Deltas, it can capably slip into a slow-speed, high-alpha flight with ease. The FMS 80mm EDF sounds utterly amazing and pushes the Rafale through most basic aerobatic maneuvers with thrust to spare. The bright color scheme offers almost bulletproof inflight orientation cues.

Given a little time in the landing pattern and with flaps deployed, the model slows nicely and transitions into a slightly nose-high attitude. Pilots should hold a little more power than usual all the way down to the runway surface. If you fall behind on the power or roll off too soon as you come across the runway threshold, the Rafale will drop its nose and force the suspension-equipped aluminum struts to do their job. Initial flight durations had me feeling as though I was flying a 90 mm model. Three minutes was about the most I could eke out with typical mixed-throttle usage.

Conclusion

Pilots wishing to experiment with alternate approaches to the variety of mixes used on this Delta-wing model (using the programming available in their transmitter) will most likely need to bypass the embedded control module. I was duly impressed with how well the Reflex module minimized the wing rock often associated with a Delta-wing model like the Rafale. Watch for an expanded review of this model, to appear in print in an upcoming issue of Model Aviation magazine. In the meantime, I will be logging many more sorties with it and look forward to developing and sharing my impressions and opinions.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Model type: EDF jet

  • Skill level: Intermediate

  • Wingspan: 38.3 inches (974 mm)

  • Wing area: 597 sq. in.

  • Length: 55.5 inches (1,409 mm)

  • Weight: 5.9 pounds (2.7 kilograms)

  • Power system: 80 mm brushless EDF

  • Radio: Minimum seven channels required

  • Construction: EPO foam

  • Price: $408.99

TEST-MODEL DETAILS

  • Motor: 3280-2100 Kv brushless inrunner

  • ESC: 100 amp with internal 5-amp BEC; XT90 connector

  • Fan unit: 80 mm, 12 blade

  • Battery: RCBattery Liperior 35C 6S 22.2-volt, 5,000 mAh LiPo

  • Radio system: Spektrum DX9 nine-channel, 2.4 GHz DSMX transmitter; Spektrum AR9020 nine-channel 2.4 GHz DSMX receiver

  • Ready-to-fly weight: 7.6 pounds (3.4 kilograms)

  • Flight duration: Three minutes

PLUSES

  • Exquisitely detailed model of the Dassault Rafale

  • Fit and finish of the EPO foam components is first class

  • Full complement of LED navigation and landing lights included

  • Removable underwing and fuselage centerline-mounted armaments

  • 80 mm 12-blade FMS EDF creates notably nice, ear-pleasing acoustics

  • Vibrant color scheme provides nearly foolproof inflight orientation cues

  • Aluminum suspension-equipped struts stand up to the rigors of off-runway excursions

Minuses

  • Removable centerline tank did not easily slide onto its twin plastic receivers

  • Vibrant color scheme might be slightly over the top for pilots who prefer a more mainstream, mundane, military-gray scheme

  • Typical flight durations are as short as most 90mm EDF jet models

Manufacturer/Distributor:

FMS support@fmsmodel.com www.fmsmodel.com

Sources:

RCBattery info@rcbattery.com www.rcbattery.com

 

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