The French Directorate General of Armament (Direction générale de l’armement, DGA) has taken delivery of the second Rafale B360 twin-seater aircraft at Dassault Aviation’s facility in Mérignac, destined for the French Air and Space Force. This Rafale B360 is part of a total order of 40 aircraft planned for delivery by the end of 2025, including 13 to the French Air and Space Force in 2023. The fighter was then transported to the DGA Flight Test and Expertise Center in Istres to be upgraded to the F4.1 standard. The DGA has placed an order for 192 series fighter, out of which 154 have already been delivered. An additional order for 42 Rafale fighter is planned in 2023.
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed by Dassault Aviation. The Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. The Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries, and was selected for purchase by the Egyptian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, the Qatar Air Force, the Hellenic Air Force, the Croatian Air Force, the Indonesian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
Initial deliveries of the Rafale M were to the F1 (“France 1”) standard, which were equipped for the air-to-air interceptor combat duties, but lacked any armament for air-to-ground operations. The F1 standard became operational in 2004. Later deliveries were to the “F2” standard, which added the capability for conducting air-to-ground operations; the first F2 standard Rafale M was delivered to the French Navy in May 2006. Starting in 2008 onwards, Rafale deliveries have been to the nuclear-capable F3 standard that also added reconnaissance with the Areos reconnaissance pod, and it has been reported that all aircraft built to the earlier F1 and F2 standards are to be upgraded to become F3s.
The F4 standard program was launched on 20 March 2017 by the French ministry of defence. The first F4.1 standard test aircraft was delivered in March 2023. For compatibility with armaments of varying types and origins, the Rafale’s onboard store management system is compliant with MIL-STD-1760, an electrical interface between an aircraft and its carriage stores, thereby simplifying the incorporation of many of their existing weapons and equipment. The Rafale is typically outfitted with 14 hardpoints, five of which are suitable for heavy armament or equipment such as auxiliary fuel tanks, and has a maximum external load capacity of nine tons.