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France orders additional Rafale combat aircraft

The French Air and Space Force is to receive a further 42 Rafale combat aircraft, the country's minister of armed forces has announced. (French Air and Space Force)

France has ordered additional Dassault Rafale combat aircraft, the country's Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu announced on 12 January.

Lecornu said that 42 new aircraft will be acquired for the French Air and Space Force.

“A new decisive step has been taken with the order for 42 Rafale for the air force. This is excellent news for our sovereignty, our security, and for our armies, which will benefit from additional Rafales with modernised operational capabilities,” Lecornu said, adding that the EUR5 billion (USD5.4 billion) investment will come from the Military Programming Law (LPM) 2019–25 budget.

This announcement represents the fifth procurement tranche for the Rafale placed by the French Ministry of Armed Forces since 1993. The first of these new F4-standard aircraft will be delivered from 2027.

The French Armed Forces have made a commitment to field and modernise the Rafale through to at least 2070, with incremental upgrade packages designed to keep the aircraft at the forefront of military capabilities.

These hardware and software upgrades for the aircraft will be separated out to avoid a lengthy and costly recertification process. With the latest aircraft at the F4 standard, from 2030 to 2040 the F5 standard will add greater connectivity, new weapons and sensors, a new nuclear missile, artificial intelligence, stealth and hypersonic technologies (although it will not be a stealthy or hypersonic platform), and an extended airframe life package. Planned follow-on F6 and F7 upgrade packages have yet to be defined.

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