The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), France's military procurement agency, has launched the first studies to develop the new F4 standard for the Dassault Rafale fighter.
The standard, which the DGA is scheduled to qualify by 2024, follows up on the most recent standard for the Rafale, the F3R. The research will run until the end of 2017, according to the deputy director of the Rafale program at the DGA.
The new standard has four pillars. First is the integration of the new Thales software radio, Contact, which is already in service in the French army. This system is more secure and offers an improved data link. “It will also integrate civil and military satellite capacity, notably with the military satellite Syracuse IV,” added the deputy director.
Secondly, DGA is seeking to improve the capabilities of the sensors used on Rafale; The RB2E radar will be able to detect on-ground mobile targets; the infrared optronic system will be improved; as will the Spectra protection and counter-measure system. This sensor will have extended functionality on low and high frequencies to detect future threats. DGA also wants to equip pilots with a helmet-mounted visual system.
Thirdly, new weapons are also part of the new criteria. The Dassault fighter will need to integrate a mid-life renewed Scalp cruise missile, as well as a new version of the AASM air-to-ground weapon, the AASM Evolution. These weapons will be able to deliver from 500 kg to one metric ton, versus 250 kg now.
The new standard integrates the Mica NG air-to-air missile, which offers longer range and better detection and acquisition capacity. These improvements will go to address one of the key weaknesses of the standard F3R, integrating with the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.
The fourth pillar is to introduce predictive MRO to increase the Rafale's dispatch reliability.
“Rafale has been designed to receive those incremental standards,” said the deputy director. "The F3R standard is to be qualified by the DGA by the end of 2018, on time and on budget,” he added.
Apart from the Meteor’s integration, the new standard will include the new Talios multi-function targeting pod, designed by Thales.
Both DGA and Dassault intend to use all these developments on future export versions of the Rafale. The aircraft sold to Qatar, Egypt and India are currently set to be equipped with the F3R standard, however.