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France orders 42 Rafale fighters

Photo: Dassault Aviation

The French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) has granted Dassault Aviation a contract for 42 Rafale combat aircraft, designated as “tranche 5,” destined for the French Air and Space Force (FASF).

The contract for new “omni-role” aircraft for the FASF was signed in December 2023, in a deal worth more than €5 billion (US $5.5 billion), as announced by the Armed Forces Ministry on Friday.

The company stated that the 42 Rafale aircraft will initially feature the standard 4 configuration, with an upgrade option to standard 5 planned for the mid-2030s, facilitating collaborative combat with remotely piloted aircraft.

In 2018, Dassault commenced the development of standard 4, emphasizing enhanced connectivity, and achieved the qualification of the first increment in March. Additionally, 12 of the ordered aircraft are designated as replacements for those sold to Croatia in November 2021.

As part of the Rafale’s Standard 4 upgrades, as outlined by the French Ministry of Armed Forces, key enhancements encompass 3D tracking of ground targets using the RBE2 AESA radar, continuous target updates for missiles, expanded bandwidths for the SPECTRA self-protection system, and the ability to carry three 1,000-kilogram AASM air-to-ground missiles.

These improvements extend to a helmet-mounted display system, upgraded cockpit controls, advanced optronics for detecting stealthy targets, integration of the CONTACT tactical radio, and heightened protection against cyberattacks.

Dassault Aviation, in collaboration with Thales, Safran, and MBDA, is set to deliver the Rafale fighter jets between 2027 and 2032, as per government announcement. This marks the fifth tranche of Rafale jets for France, bringing the cumulative total to 234 aircraft.