The Dassault Rafale, France’s main fighter jet, reached a new milestone after the first aircraft brought to the F4.1 standard was delivered to the French Air Force.
On March 2, 2023, the French Air Warfare Center (CEAM) located at the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base near Bordeaux took delivery of the first Rafale F4.
“The first plane we received today is one of the F3Rs that we sent to the Flight Test Center of the General Directorate of Armaments, in Istres, for their software transformation”, explained Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume, second in command of the Fighter and Experimentation Squadron (ECE), in a press release.
Flight tests of the new standard began at the Dassault Aviation Flight Test Center in Istres, southeastern France, in April 2021, a month after the French Air and Space Army and the French Navy signed the operational entry into service of the F3R standard.
“Other brand-new aircraft will come directly from the Dassault production lines and will complete the fleet of fighters sent gradually to Istres for their transition from the F3R standard to the F4.1,” Guillaume added.
Dassault Aviation was contracted with the development of the Rafale’s new F4 Standard by the then-Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly on January 14, 2019. The contract was estimated at €2 billion.
Preparing the Rafale for the sixth generation of fighter jets
With the delivery of the first Rafale 4.1 to the French Air Force and a second aircraft expected a week later, testing will continue at the CEAM. The target is now to induct the standard with the 30th Fighter Wing to start training, before pronouncing its Initial Operational Capability (IOC).
The F4 Standard focuses on improving the connectivity of the Rafale with other systems through new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication server, and software radio. Thus, the fighter will be able to integrate into the Future Combat Air System being conjointly developed by France, Germany, and Spain.
Several improvements to the fighting capability were also developed, with the integration of a helmet-mounted sight featuring augmented reality, and a TALIOS (Targeting long-range identification optronic system) pod, both developed by the French manufacturer Thales. The Rafale F4 will also be able to drop 1-ton precision-guided bombs (AASM 1000 “Hammer”).
This massive improvement of the backbone of the French Air Force is one of the needed evolutions to extend its operational life and prepare its operation alongside the FCAS.