France has launched flight trials of the latest F4 standard of the Dassault Rafale combat aircraft, the Ministry of the Armed Forces announced on 20 May.
Two F4-1 standard Rafale combat aircraft took part in flight trials in April, flying realistic tactical scenarios alongside other French aircraft types. (Ministry of the Armed Forces)
The tests of an F4-1 configured Rafale took place out of Istres airbase in southern France from 26 to 29 April. They were conducted under the stewardship of the Directorate General of Armament (DGA).
“Eight complex missions representing 50 aircraft sorties were carried out by test crews from the DGA, the French Navy, the French Air and Space Force, and Dassault Aviation,” the ministry said, adding the trials saw two Rafales configured to the F4-1 standard operate as part of a wider aerial component of up to eight aircraft, performing realistic tactical scenarios.
News of the commencement of flight trials came some two-and-a-half years after the Rafale F4 upgrade was formally launched. As noted by Dassault in January 2019, the F4-standard will include enhancements to the Thales RBE2 active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar, the Thales TALIOS long-range airborne targeting 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 Sagem Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) modular air-to-ground precision weapon.