The F3R Standard of the Dassault Rafale fighter jet reached another milestone with the integration of the Meteor missile.
Developed by MBDA within the framework of cooperation involving France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and Germany, the Meteor is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. The weapon has a range of over 150 kilometers (90 miles) and can reach Mach 4 speed.
The French Air Force can now count on what it describes as a “game-changer.” On March 4, 2021, it announced that it carried out the first operational flight with a Rafale equipped with combat-ready Meteor missiles.
Ce vol a permis de valider les processus d’acheminement des dépôts de munitions vers la zone d’armement puis, de valider les savoir-faire lors d’une première mise en œuvre du missile par les armuriers, et de confirmer la préparation opérationnelle des équipages. pic.twitter.com/9GEOAIesk7— Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace (@Armee_de_lair) March 4, 2021
“This flight made it possible to validate the process of routing ammunition depots to the armament zone, then to validate the know-how during a first deployment of the missile by the armorers, and to confirm the operational readiness of the crews,” the Air Force explained on Twitter. The Meteor was first introduced by Sweden on the JAS 39 Gripen in April 2016. It should eventually equip the Eurofighter Typhoon fighters of the other partner countries.
The Rafale F3R did not wait for the Meteor missile to have its baptism by fire. In September 2020, a patrol of two fighter jets was called to carry out a strike of opportunity against a position of the so-called Islamic State, neutralizing several insurgents with laser-guided bombs.
In addition to the missile, the F3R Standard comprises several other upgrades, including the RBE2 AESA radar system and the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite. The French Air Force’s backbone aircraft can also carry the TALIOS designation pod, developed by Thales, which increases the detection and identification capabilities of land targets in any conditions. The pod was used for the first time in November 2020.
One step ahead
Dassault Aviation is already working on the following upgrade to the capacity of the Rafale. On January 14, 2019, the French Ministry of Armed Forces contracted the development of the F4 Standard which will focus on improving the connectivity of the Rafale with other systems through “new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication server, software radio.” Thus, the fighter will be able to integrate into the Future Combat Air System that France, Germany, and Spain are conjointly developing.