First French Rafale F4.1 fighter reaches initial operational capability

French Air and Space Force

The first Dassault Rafale fighter to be upgraded to the F4.1 standard for the French Air and Space Force (AAE) was deployed for operational duty for the first time on February 16, 2024, at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base. 

A year after its delivery to the French Air Warfare Center (CEAM) located at the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base near Bordeaux, the Rafale F4.1 standard aircraft conducted its inaugural alert sortie to support the 30th Fighter Wing’s training exercises. 

“For several months, this new generation Rafale has already been used by the forces for training missions,” the AAE stated. “It has now acquired its initial operational capability (IOC), allowing it to carry out operational missions, such as air policing.” 

The final step will be its Full Operational Capability (FOC) status, achieved when all the capacity enhancements and state-of-the-art equipment associated with the standard are fully integrated. 

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. It includes a helmet-mounted sight and a new 1-ton precision-guided bomb (AASM 1000 “Hammer”), improvements to both air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting systems, enhancements to the self-protection system, and the integration of the TALIOS (Targeting long-range identification optronic system) targeting pod.  

This substantial improvement to the backbone of the French Air Force is one of the necessary evolutions to extend its operational life and prepare its operation alongside the Future Combat Air System being conjointly developed by France, Germany, and Spain. It will also equip pilots for high-intensity conflicts, one of the priorities of the latest Military Planning Law (LPM) for 2024-2030. 

(Credit: French Air and Space Force)
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