The French Air (French Air and Space Force, Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace) and the French Navy (Marine nationale) signed the operational entry-into-service agreement of the F3-R standard, the most advanced version of the Dassault Rafale fighter jet. The operational commissioning (MSO) of the F3-R standard is the final stage of the program which formalizes the opening of all the expected capacities. The new features operationalized are the Meteor missile, the GBU-16 laser-guided bomb and the TALIOS targeting pod. The French Air Forces carried out its first operational flight with a Rafale equipped with Meteor war-bearing missiles on Thursday, March 4.
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault. A total of 180 have been ordered out of a planned 286, with an option for another 9. Approximately 152 are confirmed to be delivered by 2018. As of 2017, 149 had been delivered. In 2018 three Rafale will be delivered, and then in 2024 all the 28 remaining out of the 180 ordered will be delivered.
In January 2014, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that €1 billion is allocated towards the development of the F3R standard. The standard will see the integration of the Meteor BVR missile. In 2010, France ordered 200 MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range missiles which will greatly increase the distance at which the Rafale can engage aerial targets when the missile enters service. F3 standard Rafales are capable of undertaking many different mission roles with a range of equipment, namely air defence/superiority missions with Mica IR and EM air-to-air missiles, and precision ground attacks typically using SCALP EG cruise missiles, AASM Hammer air-to-surface missiles and AM39 Exocet sea skimming missile.