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The French Air & Space Force and Navy Chiefs of Staff have jointly approved the entry into operational service of the RAFALE F3-R fighter jet.

Upgrading French combat aircraft capacities ranks high on the list of priorities of the French military expenditure plan (LPM) which provides for a €2.7Bn investment in the development of the new versions of the RAFALE over the 2019-2025 period. The French Navy and French Air & Space Force are now authorised to make operational use of all the capacities that are developed around the F3-R standard. This is already installed in half of the French fleet and will eventually be installed on all RAFALE’s in service. Both forces now have a world-class multirole fighter aircraft at their disposal capable of operating in the most contested environments.

This decision also applies to the RAFALE’s of the Carrier Air Wing operated from the aircraft carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE, or those of the French Air & Space Force that are deployed from the forward air base in Jordan within the framework of Operation CHAMMAL.

The entry into operational service is the culmination of a process, which within both armed forces consisted of determining and disseminating the applicable operating tactics defined for the new capacities of the multirole aircraft, as made possible by the F3-R standard.

RAFALE F3-R Capabilities

The combination the RBE2 AESA radar and the METEOR gives the RAFALE the air superiority it needs for Beyond Visual Range Engagements in all weather, as required for handling a wide variety of targets. The new version of the RAFALE will continue to carry the enhanced medium-range, air-to-ground missile (ASMPA) as part of airborne nuclear deterrence missions.

The F3-R RAFALE is also capable of using the TALIOS high-resolution laser designation pod, which can generate images in both the visible and infrared ranges, benefitting from largely improved capacities that will enable it to perform intelligence and target acquisition, and tracking and designation missions. In particular, the RAFALE will feature new and more efficient fixed or moving target tracking capacities, as well as an automatic moving target detection capacity and a new human-machine interface that will make it easier to use.

In the new standard, the RAFALE F3-R will also offer an enhanced ground attack capacity through being able to control munition flight time, the laser illumination and the in-flight weapon settings, including for the terminal laser guidance Modular Air-to-Ground Weapon System. The RAFALE F3-R will also feature an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, an ultimate protection function designed to prevent any risks of ground collision.

From 2022 onwards, new capacities will be added to the RAFALE, with the F4 standard. This aircraft will include innovative connectivity solutions offering enhanced networked combat operation capabilities. Enhanced radar sensors and forward optronics will also be added, as well as a helmet-mounted display and new integrated weapons, such as the air-to-air MICA NG missile and the modular 1000-kg air-to-ground weapon.

Jack Richardson