Noteworthy the development of the new aircraft, which is designated Rafale F4, is aimed to satisfy the growing domestic and international demand for the French fighter.
As told by Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation the new Rafale variant will have new more advanced capabilities than the current Rafale F3-R, which is due to complete testing in 2018. “The F4 standard will incorporate operational experience feedback and enable continuous improvement of the Rafale to be maintained. It will reinforce the national skills and technological capabilities essential for preparing the development of the next generation of combat aircraft”, he said. “I am also delighted that the Defense Ministry underlines the need to continue with the acquisition of the Rafale, beyond the 4th tranche currently in production, in order primarily to meet the needs of the French Air Force,” Trappier added.
Moreover the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) could order additional 45 as it phases out older Mirage 2000 aircraft currently in service. To undertake this role Rafale F4 will be integrated with new variants of Mica air to air missile, Scalp low-observable air-launched cruise missile and ASMP-A nuclear cruise missile (that currently arms exclusively the Mirage 2000N).
The first Rafale F4s could enter service in 2023, even though its development is scheduled to be completed in 2025. The new fighters will be part of the fifth production tranche (2019-2025), delivering on French and export orders.
In the future the Rafale F4 airframe will be upgraded with low-observability modifications which will made the aircraft able to old its own against future fighters.
The Rafale entered service with Marine Nationale (French Navy) in 2004 and with Armée de l’Air in 2006. With more than 30,000 flight hours in combat operations, it has proven its worth in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria.
According to Defense Update given that France plans to maintain the Rafale in service until at least 2040, the aircraft is continuously upgraded. €1 billion were allocated for the development of the current variant – F3-R, which will integrate the Meteor, MBDA’s new stealth long range air to air missile which will be able to engage aerial targets from ranges exceeding 100 km. In the air to ground role, the F3-R variant will carry the new Thales PDL-NG targeting pod. Other improvements will include the installation of an upgraded Link 16 digital data link, a new IFF (identification, friend or foe) system and buddy refueling pods for Marine Nationale Rafale Ns.
Photo credit: Senior Airman Joshua A. Hoskins and Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb / U.S. Air Force; Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard / U.S. Navy
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