France to purchase Rafale F4

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France to purchase Rafale F4

Rafale F4 will include better radar and sensors plus the integration of the Mica NG air-to-air missile and 1,000-kg AASM Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon

Dassault received the green light to develop the F4-standard for the Rafale fighter when Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces, paid a visit to its Mérignac plant on Jan. 14, 2019.

The F4 standard is part of the ongoing process to continuously improve the Rafale in line with technological progress and operating experience feedback. The F4 standard marks a new step coming in the wake of the standards F1 (specific to the first aircraft of the French Navy), F2 (air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities), F3 and F3R (extended versatility).

Dassault will be responsible for implementing innovative connectivity solutions to optimize the effectiveness of the aircraft in networked combat (new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication server, software defined radio).

New functions will also be developed to improve the aircraft’s capabilities (upgrades to the radar sensors and front sector optronics, helmet-mounted display capabilities), and new weapons will be integrated (Mica NG air-to-air missile and 1,000-kg AASM Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon).

Moreover the firm is working under a through-life support contract which will become more “top-down” under the authority of the aircraft manufacturer. F4 will include a new Prognosis and Diagnostic Aid System introducing predictive maintenance capabilities. Other maintenance optimization features are scheduled, particularly with solutions based on Big Data and artificial intelligence. Lastly, the Rafale will be equipped with a new engine control unit.

“The F4 standard guarantees that Rafale will remain at world-class level so that our combat air forces can carry out all their missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrent, stated Eric Trappier. This new standard also guarantees that Rafale will remain a credible reference on the export market. Lastly, it confirms the continuous improvement approach and helps develop the manufacturers’ skills.”

Validation of the F4 standard is planned for 2024, with some functions becoming available as of 2022.

Photo credit: Senior Airman Joshua A. Hoskins / U.S. Air Force

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