French Rafale F3R fighter reaches full operational capability

© Dassault Aviation – A. Pecchi

The French Air and Space Army and the French Navy signed the operational entry into service of the Rafale at the F3R standard, the French Ministry of Armed Forces announced on March 17, 2021. 

The new F3R Standard comprises several upgrades, that include the RBE2 AESA radar system, the METEOR long-range air-to-air missile, the TALIOS designation pod, and an update of the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite. The upgrade of the Rafale fighter jets delivered to previous standards was carried out by Team Rafale, a joint venture composed of Dassault Aviation, Thales, and Safran. 

“The entire capability outline of the program can therefore now be used in an operational situation and changes will then be made in order to always remain at the forefront of modern technology,” the Ministry commented.

The Rafale F3R had its baptism by fire in September 2020, when 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.

On March 4, 2021, the French Air Force announced that it carried out the first operational flight with a Rafale equipped with combat-ready Meteor missiles, which it described as a “game-changer.”

What is next for the Rafale?

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.

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