COURCOURONNES, France: The first test flight of a Rafale fighter powered by the Snecma (Safran group) M88-4E engine (formerly designated the “TCO Pack”, for total cost of ownership) took place on March 22 at the Istres air base in southern France.

Lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes, the flight was a total success, and was used to expand the flight envelope. The complete test campaign for the M88-4E engine comprises some 70 flights in 2010, with different engine configurations. Ten test flights have been carried out to date.

“We are satisfied with the successful initial flights of the M88-4E, the third major engine upgrade, reflecting our continuing focus on research & development. The latest evolution of the engine enables us to better meet the expectations of our customer, by helping decrease the Rafale’s maintenance costs,” said Didier Desnoyer, Snecma’s Vice President Military Engines.

The development of the M88-4E is proceeding very satisfactorily. The first ground test of the engine was performed in September 2009. Development engines are now undergoing ground performance and endurance tests, and a series of altitude chamber tests was completed in late February. Qualification and delivery of the first production-standard M88-4E is now slated for the end of 2011.

In January 2008, French defense procurement agency DGA awarded Snecma the “TCO Pack” contract for the M88-2 engine. The aim of this contract was to extend the service life and time between inspections for several parts of the engine. Modifications mainly concern the high-pressure compressor and turbine.

Designed for the Rafale multirole fighter, the M88 is the first member of a family of new-generation engines intended for 21st century combat and advanced training aircraft. The M88-2 now powers all air force and naval versions of the Rafale. It is particularly well suited to low-altitude penetration and high-altitude interception missions.

Snecma, a Safran group company, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of aircraft and space engines, with a wide range of propulsion systems on offer. The company designs and builds commercial aircraft engines – including the CFM56* world’s leader – that are powerful, reliable, economical and environmentally friendly, along with military aircraft engines that have always delivered world-class performance. Snecma also develops and produces propulsion systems and equipment for launch vehicles and satellites. Snecma also offers a complete range of engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to airlines, armed forces and operators.