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France lays out Rafale upgrade path to 2070

13 November 2019
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With the first F3R-standard Rafales now entering service, the French Air Force and French Navy have a roadmap to improvement that should take the platform out to about 2070. Source: Dassault

France has laid out the upgrade path it intends to rollout for the Dassualt Rafale to keep the multirole combat aircraft in air force and naval service through to about 2070, a senior service official said on 13 November.

Speaking at the IQPC International Fighter conference in Berlin, Major General Frederic Parisot, Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Programmes, French Air Force (Armée de l’Air: AdlA), said that there will likely be a further four upgrade phases for the platform beyond the latest F3R configuration currently being rolled out, and that it is the country’s plan for the Rafale to serve as the force-multiplier alongside the New Generation Fighter (NFG) currently being developed with Germany and Spain as part of the wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF).

The Rafale’s current F3R configuration features major software and hardware upgrades that include the integration of the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) and the latest laser-guided version of the Sagem Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) modular air-to-ground precision weapon; the Thales RBE2 active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar; the Thales TALIOS long-range airborne targeting pod; and automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto-GCAS); an improved buddy-buddy refuelling pod; as well as the Spectra electronic warfare system.

The F4 standard plans to operate between 2023 and 2030, and it adds enhancements to the Thales RBE2 active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar, the TALIOS pod, and the Reco NG reconnaissance pod; upgrades to the aircraft’s communications suite; improved pilot helmet-mounted displays; a new engine control unit; and the ability to carry new weaponry such as the Mica Next-Generation (NG) air-to-air missile and 1,000 kg AASM. Further to the software and hardware improvements, the F4 upgrade will include a satellite antenna, as well as a new prognosis and diagnostic aid system designed to introduce predictive maintenance capabilities.

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