Dassault Aviation was contracted with the development of the Rafale’s new F4 Standard by the Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly on January 14, 2019. The contract is estimated at €2 billion.

This massive improvement of the backbone of the French Air Force is one of the needed evolutions to extend its operational life until 2050, date after which the Rafale should be retired from service. Eventually, it should be replaced by the FCAS, of which Dassault is the main contractor, with Airbus as a partner.

An investment for the future

The F4 Standard is aimed at improving the connectivity of the Rafale with other systems, through “new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication server, software radio,” as phrased by the manufacturer. This improvement should be a major step towards collaborated engagement involving multiple connected platforms, one of the main perks of the FCAS developed conjointly by France and Germany, which is expected for 2040. Dassault Aviation announced new maintenance solutions to increase the plane’s availability, using artificial intelligence and big data.

A Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) should be added, as it already exists on the F3R Standard Export destined to Qatar and India. The capacities of the radar and the Optronique Secteur Frontal (the optoelectronics sensor developed specially for the Rafale) will also be upgraded. Finally, the fighter jet should be able to integrate new weapons, such as the air-to-air missile Mica NG developed by MBDA and the Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) 1000 kg bomb conceived by Safran.

30 Rafales F4 to be ordered

Florence Parly confirmed that an order should be placed in 2023 for 30 additional Rafales – of the F4 Standard – to be delivered between 2027 and 2030. “These improvements will bring this aircraft to the level of the last generation aircraft and will allow our air forces to maintain their superiority in spaces more and more contested,” commented the minister in an interview with the newspaper Sud Ouest. The French Air Force is already expecting 28 Rafales F3R between 2022 and 2024.

The announcement was made at Merignac, in the south-west of France, where Dassault Aviation has one of its factories. The development and application of the F4 Standard should secure between 2,500 and 5,000 jobs in the French defense industry.