Since February 2023, the French Navy’s CEPA/10S (centre d’expérimentations pratiques et de réception de l’aéronautique navale) fighter detachment has been conducting experiments with the Rafale’s current F4.1 standard. This revised standard introduces “collaborative combat” by improving the SPECTRA self-protection system and the Meteor air-to-air missile’s fire control. The F4.1 standard also includes other capacity enhancements, including the introduction of the SCORPION helmet sight, the new 1000kg AASM air-to-ground armament, the “NAVWAR” development of inertial units, and a new software version of the Talios laser designation POD.
These flights were intended to analyze the unique characteristics of air-sea operations, including air/sea hazards, the aging of catapult launch/landing equipment, and the operation of the NARANG refueling pod. Furthermore, the F4.1 standard’s interaction with the air group on board and the surface forces at sea has allowed for the evaluation of this new standard under complex conditions representative of the Rafale’s operational use. These complicated analyses, in collaboration with operational units, are entirely consistent with the need to prepare for high-intensity wars and the threats that exist in modern theaters.
CEPA/10S has already logged approximately 100 hours of flight time on the Rafale Marine F4.1. From March 21 to 30, three Rafale Marine F4.1 standard aircraft, as well as a team of more than 60 naval aviators, DGA experts, and Rafale program producers, were deployed aboard the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. Nearly 40 experimental flights of the new standard have been conducted on board to establish its compatibility for the on-board environment, check that capabilities have not degraded in comparison to the F3R standard, and test the many additional functionality.
This campaign aboard the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle also provided an opportunity to test new ground functionalities, such as aircraft carrier reference alignment, Dassult Rafale version F4.1 of the Harpagon information system (fault detection), and evaluation of the SEFIAM electric cart for transporting all types of ammunition and armaments. CEPA/10S (centre d’expérimentations pratiques et de réception de l’aéronautique navale) is now working to complete the work required for the upcoming operational commissioning of the Dassult Rafale version F4.1 standard within the French Naval Aviation Force.