During the visit to Dassault Aviation’s Mérignac plant by French Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, on 14 January, the company received the contract for development of the F4 standard of the RAFALE omnirole combat aircraft.
The F4 standard is part of the ongoing process to continuously improve the aircraft in line with technological progress and operational feedback. It comes in the wake of the standards F1 (specific to the first aircraft of the French Navy), F2 (air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities), F3 and F3R (extended versatility).
In its role as industrial architect, Dassault will be responsible for implementing innovative connectivity solutions to optimise the effectiveness of the aircraft in networked combat (new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication server, software defined radio).
New functions will also be developed to improve the aircraft's capabilities (upgrades to the radar sensors and front sector optronics, helmet-mounted display capabilities), and new weapons will be integrated, including the MICA NG air-to-air missile and the 1,000kg Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon (AASM).
F4 will also include a new Prognosis and Diagnostic Aid System, introducing predictive maintenance capabilities. Other maintenance optimisation features are scheduled, particularly with solutions based on ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence, and the aircraft will be equipped with a new engine control unit.
“The F4 standard guarantees that RAFALE will remain at world-class level so that our combat air forces can carry out all their missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrent,” observed company Chairman and CEO, Eric Trappier. “This new standard also guarantees that RAFALE will remain a credible reference on the export market. Lastly, it confirms the continuous improvement approach and helps develop the manufacturers' skills.”
Validation of the F4 standard is planned for 2024, with some functions becoming available as of 2022.