The French Navy officially received its first Rafale M fighter jet upgraded to the F3-R standard in a ceremony at the Landivisiau Naval Air Base.
The first flight of F3-R from Landivisiau took place on December 17, the defense ministry said.
The aircraft was delivered after the upgrade was approved by the French defense procurement agency (DGA) on October 31, 2018. Dassault Aviation launched the development of this new standard at the end of 2013.
The F3-R standard is an evolution of the Rafale F3 and will enable the Air Force and Navy Rafale aircraft to carry the MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
F3-R also includes Thales’ Talios new-generation laser designator pod used for air-to-ground strikes, and the laser homing version of the Safran AASM air-to-ground modular weapon.
Additionally, the F3-R is the first French military aircraft to receive the the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS) which enhances the safety of pilots.
The Rafale continuous improvement approach is now looking to the F4 standard, after a contract for the upgrade development was announced on January 14, 2019, during French defense minister Florence Parly’s visit to the Dassault Aviation Mérignac plant.
The F4 standard will notably improve the connectivity of the Rafale and its ability to operate as part of a network. This will be enabled by new satellite and intra-patrol links, communication servers, and software defined radio.
Upgrades to the radar sensors and front sector optronics, helmet-mounted display capabilities, and new weapons in the form of Mica NG air-to-air missiles and a 1,000-kg AASM air-to-ground modular weapon are also envisioned.