A NEW, EXQUISITELY DETAILED EDF JET

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Dassault Rafale

FMS 80mm Dassault Rafale

By Jon Barnes | barnesjonr@gmail.com Photos by the author

At a Glance

Specifications

Model type: EDF jet

Skill level: Intermediate

Wingspan: 38.3 inches (974mm)

Wing area: 597 sq. in. Length: 55.5 inches (1,409mm) Weight: 5.9 pounds

Power system: 80mm brushless EDF Radio:

Minimum seven channels required

Construction: EPO foam Price: $408.99

Test-Model Details

Motor: 3280-2100 Kv brushless inrunner

Speed controller: 100 amp with internal 5-amp BEC; XT90 connector

Fan unit: 80mm, 12 blade

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

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

Ready-to-fly weight: 7.6 pounds

Flight duration: 3 to 4 minutes

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 military gray scheme.

• The slightly heavy weight of its draggy delta wing can make for short flight durations for pilots who are heavy on the throttle.

Manufacturer/Distributor

FMS support@fmsmodel.com www.fmsmodel.com

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 its first new model for 2021, an excitingly detailed and brightly colored 80mm EDF-powered Dassault Rafale, inspires the 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 2 years to design and bring to market. Powered by the well-proven FMS 12-blade, 80mm EDF power system, the Rafale features functional canards, a full house of fixed and flashing navigation and landing LED lights, flaps, removable armament, aluminum suspension-equipped struts, and an eye-popping, bright yellow and dark blue French Air Force commemorative scheme that pilots will either admiringly adore or disdainfully dislike.

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The battery compartment easily accommodates the recommended six-cell 5,000 mAh LiPo battery. The battery will need to be shifted as far rearward as possible. Locating the receiver to the front portion of the battery bay allows the battery to be moved farther aft.

 

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This FMS kit features a stunning, factory applied scale color scheme. Embedded plastic parts integrated into typically vulnerable areas help protect the airframe from the dings and dents inherent to flying and transport.

Assembly The fit and finish of this EPO foam-composition model is incredible right out of the box. 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 that are typically vulnerable to hangar rash and normal wear and tear. A 2mm 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 edges 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 that index into flats ground onto the rotating shaft. Pilots will still need to visually align the two canards so that they are attached at the same pitch and angle. The included foam missiles and tanks are removable. I had difficulty 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 is handled by the factory-installed control module. Additional functionality ultimately controlled by this module includes 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 the maximum permissible bank angles. Delta-wing models can typically exhibit more wing rock than their conventional-wing counterparts. Even with the gyros active, several times I noticed that the Rafale would gently rock in the roll axis on even the calmest of days. Although I theorized that the gyro’s roll axis might benefit from a slight reduction in gain, the FMS Reflex module does not allow pilots to connect to it in order to tweak and tune individual settings, as do some of the other gyro stabilization systems currently on the market.

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The suspension-equipped aluminum struts are some of the best in recent EDF jets. They soak up the rigors of less improved runways and runway excursions without complaint

 

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Pilots need not be afraid to slow this model in the landing pattern. Slip this delta wing into a slightly nose-high orientation, hold in a little throttle, and it will touch down with no surprises.

 

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 130mm center of gravity (CG) range. Dropping from a six-cell 5,000 mAh battery to a slightly lighter weight 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 aircraft 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 upward 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) functions 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 delta wings, it can capably slip into 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 in-flight orientation cues. Given a little time in the landing pattern and with flaps deployed, the model slows nicely and transitions into a slightly nosehigh 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 90mm model. Three minutes was about the most I could eke out with typical mixed-throttle usage. After flying this model for several more months, I found it all but imperative to shift the CG rearward toward the aft end of the recommended range. Downsizing to a slightly smaller pack or switching to a pack with a more favorable form factor are two ways to achieve this, although the first option comes with the unwelcome caveat of decreased flight durations. With the more aft CG, departures and overall in-flight performance are vastly improved and more predictable. At wide open throttle, this 80mm EDF jet is admittedly not capable of unlimited vertical climbouts. When flying it with the full complement of included underwing drop tanks and armament, its draggy flight becomes even more apparent (although the model does look all business when its fully loaded out).

Although the Rafale can achieve triple-digit speeds, getting there will likely require pilots to strategically plan their passes and use altitude and/or prevailing wind to their advantage. Although this mode will not likely scratch the itch of pilots who are focused on all-out speed (semi-complicated twin-inlet ducting and a slightly pudgy all-up weight are at least two contributing factors), those who place a premium on models that possess wide performance envelopes will undoubtedly fall in love with the Rafale. This model excels at high-alpha flight and possesses an amazing ability to fly at unbelievably slow airspeeds when held in this orientation. Showcasing its slower speed abilities with its inherent reduced-throttle settings comes with the benefit of increased flight durations. Flights with a couple of high-speed passes, intermingled with a few laps around the pattern in a high-alpha, slow-speed configuration, saw me push the typical flight durations beyond 4 minutes. After months of flying the Rafale, the landing gear has proven to be robust. Although I occasionally rediscovered the Rafale’s stall speed by flaring while still too high in ground effect, the aluminum suspension gear soaked up every imperfect touchdown and off-runway excursion that I threw its way!

Conclusion Pilots who wish to experiment with alternate approaches to the variety of mixes used on this delta-wing model (using the programming that is 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 such as the Rafale. At the time that I was wrapping up this second cut of the Rafale review, purchasable inventory of the model had yet to arrive in the North American distribution warehouses. Winter-weary EDF pilots who are hungry to taste this latest 80mm jet offering from FMS will hopefully find themselves welcoming the warmer days of spring with their own model of this brightly colored and delightfully delicious Dassault delta-wing jet!

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Installing the trio of included removable drop tanks and a pair of missile pods gives the Rafale an impressive all-business look, although these armaments do create additional drag.

 

SOURCES: RCBattery info@rcbattery.com www.rcbattery.com

 

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