The French government today signed a €2 billion contract with Dassault Aviation for 28 Rafale aircraft and gave the go-ahead for development of the aircraft’s F4 standard which should be validated by 2024, although some functions will be ready by 2022.
The 28 aircraft will include some F4 functionalities and be delivered to the French air force from 2023. Defense Minister Florence Parly announced that a further 30 aircraft at the full F4 standard would be ordered in 2023 for delivery between 2027 and 2030.
The F4 standard will have upgraded radar sensors and front sector optronics as well as improved capabilities in the helmet-mounted display. It will have new weapons, notably MBDA’s Mica NG air-to-air missile and 1,000 kg AASM air-to-ground modular weapon, be able to carry the new Scalp missiles and be equipped with the Talios multifunction optronic pod made by Thales.
The Rafale F4 will feature novel connectivity solutions to improve the aircraft’s effectiveness in network-centric warfare. “We’ll be able to receive more data, strengthen our data rate, talk, receive, notably thanks to satellite communication and software defined radio: the Rafale F4 will move even further into the era of data,” Parly said at the Dassault factory in Mérignac near Bordeaux.
“The F4 standard guarantees that Rafale will remain at world-class level so that our combat air forces can carry out all their missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrent,” said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation. He added that “this new standard also guarantees that Rafale will remain a credible reference on the export market.”
The F1 standard was specific to the first aircraft for the French Navy. The F2 standard gave it air-to-ground and air-to-air capaiblities, while the F3 and F3R gave it extended versatility.