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French F3-R Standard Rafale fighter declared operational

Rafale fighter
Photo: French Air Force

French defense officials have officially declared the newest version of the Rafale fighter – the F3-R Standard – to be operationally ready.

The milestone comes after Dassault Aviation, who builds the Rafale fighters, started work on the F3-R Standard in 2013 and obtained qualification for the upgrade from France’s defense procurement agency in 2018.

The F3-R standard is an evolution of the Rafale F3 standard, as part of the ongoing process to continuously improve the aircraft in line with the operational requirements and the feedback from experience of the pilots. It enables the Air Force and Navy Rafale aircraft to carry the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile produced by MBDA, the Thales Talios new-generation laser designator pod, and the laser homing version of the Safran AASM air-to-ground modular weapon.

A graphic shared by DGA outlines the progression of capabilities added to the Rafale over the years. An F4 Standard that is expected to be introduced from 2022 will bring upgrades to the radar sensors, front sector optronics, and a helmet-mounted display. New weapons that will be integrated include Mica NG air-to-air missiles and the 1,000-kg AASM air-to-ground modular weapon.

The combination of the AESA RBE2 radar and the long-range Meteor missile in the F3-R Standard gives the Rafale the air superiority it needs for beyond visual range engagements in all weather conditions.

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.

In the new standard, the Rafale F3-R will also offer an enhanced ground attack capacity. It will now be possible to control the munition flight time, the laser illumination and the in-flight weapon settings, including for the terminal laser guidance AASM (modular air-to-ground weapon system).

The Rafale F3-R will also feature an automatic ground collision avoidance system (AGCAS) that will make it safer. The AGCAS is a protection function designed to prevent any risks of ground collision.