Dassault Aviation in early October delivered the first of ten early built Rafale M fighter aircraft back to the French Marine after an extensive update to F3 standard. The first batch of ten Rafale M aircraft was built in the late 1990s to replace old F-8 Crusaders performing air defense duties, flying mainly from Marine aircraft carriers.
Those first aircraft were in basic F1 standard and limited to superiority and air defense missions only. Standards later switched to the more versatile F2 standard and the current F3. Reconfiguration fro F1 to F2 was fairly easy, but a change straight from F1 to F3 proved more challenging, according to Dassault. The company therefore designed a specific program for converting the ten F1 Rafale M aircraft to F3.
The modernization includes new modular electronic computers and cockpit screen, changes to the electrical wiring, upgrading of the Spectra countermeasures system, changes to the RBE2 PESA radar as well as changes to the weapon store stations.
The aircraft concerned were taken out of service several years ago and stored. They will now return to flying duties. The first F1 Rafale M to be re-delivered is serial M10. The other nine aircraft are to follow, with the last one expected some time in 2017.
Of the 180 Rafale aircraft ordered by France to date, 133 have been delivered. The French Rafale fleet has now flown a total of 120,000 flight hours, 16,000 of which during operations. Dassault is still struggling to sell the Rafale abroad. An order from India seems to be closing in, although talks have been ongoing for years.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest