We were wondering what was going on when Dassault’s twitter account erupted into life earlier today, and now we know why; France and Dassault signed the “F3 R” standard development contract for Rafale today, as minister for Defense Jean-Yves le Drian visited the Dassault Aviation plant in Mérignac. France is pumping 1 billion euro into further development of Rafale.
The F3 R standard is, according to Dassult, an evolution of the Rafale F3 standard. It will enable Dassault Aviation to integrate the more equipment and weapons onto Rafale, which for years has been struggling with sales outside France.
Among the hardware in question is the European Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This high-performance missile will achieve maximum effectiveness thanks to the active array radar which equips all Rafales delivered since mid-2013. The development also makes room for the Thales PDL-NG new-generation laser designator pod, plus the laser homing version of the Sagem AASM air-to-ground modular weapon.
To date, 126 of the 180 aircraft ordered by France have been delivered. The fleet currently totals almost 120,000 flight hours, including 16,000 in operations.
F3 R will also include upgrades to all Rafale sensors and systems ensuring. According to Dassault, it guarantees that French forces will continue to have a high-performance aircraft adapted to their requirements. And last but surely not least, it reinforces the strong points of Rafale in export competitions.
That last bit seems a key motivation for this contract. Dassault and France recently lost the Brazilian bid for a new fighter to Saab Gripen, a move that surely surprised the French. The Rafale needs some new spirit, and it was given exactly that today.
Source: Dassault Aviation, with further reporting by AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest