The France Directorate General of Armaments (Direction générale de l’armement; DGA) has launched flight trials of the latest F4 standard of the Dassault Rafale combat aircraft. The tests of an F4-1 configured Rafale took place out of Istres airbase in southern France from 26 to 29 April. The campaign consisted of eight complex missions representing 50 aircraft sorties and was carried out by crews from the DGA, French Navy, French Air Force and Dassault Aviation. Contributors from Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA were present to monitor the completion of flight tests in real-time.
Two Dassault Rafale to be inserted into the current development state of the new F4-1 standard in a large-scale aerial system, with up to eight aircraft in combat zones for tactical phases and in-flight refuelling slots. The Dassault Rafale F4-1 was tested in a realistic technical-operational framework. The crews, equipped with Thales SCORPION helmet sights, were able to implement the new collaborative combat features. The aptitude-for-use (RAU) campaign mobilised numerous air assets of the Ministry of the Armed Forces: eight Rafale including two Rafale Marine, two Mirage 2000 and two Dassault/Dornier Alphajet.
The Dassault Rafale F4 will come with improvements in the RBE2 AESA radar, Talios targeting pod, front sector optronics system, and helmet-mounted display capabilities. The aircraft’s Spectra defensive system will receive improvements to maintain its ability to deter emerging threats and include more powerful jammers. The aircraft will see the integration of future upgrades of the French SCALP-EG stealthy subsonic cruise missile, ASMP-A nuclear missile involving which carries a 300-kiloton-yield nuclear warhead, MICA NG air-to-air missile, and a 1000-kg version of the AASM precision-guided weapon.
The upgraded Rafale will have its architecture improved to enable future technology insertions and modifications as they become available. The French air force expects Dassault to implement Standard F4 in two increments – the first in 2023 and the second in 2025. The first batch will consist of the F4.1 version with 28 aircraft already contracted, while the 30 aircraft of the F4.2 version will be due for delivery by 2030.The F4 version will significantly improve the 4.5-generation fighter’s stealth capabilities, which although present in earlier versions to some extent failed to compete with fifth-generation combat aircraft.