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Air Warfare

Rafale F3-R receives green light for operational duty

19th March 2021 - 11:59 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

Decision covers carrier-borne F3-R fighters and aircraft operating against ISIS.

The Rafale F3-R multirole fighter has been approved for operational service by the French Navy and French Air and Space Force.

The navy and air force ‘are now authorised to make operational use of all the capacities that are developed around the F3-R standard, which is already installed in half the French fleet and will eventually be installed on all Rafale aircraft in service’, the French MoD announced on 17 March.

In particular, the latest decision applies to Rafale aircraft operated from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, as well as Air and Space Force Rafales flying from a forward airbase in Jordan under Operation Chammal.

Rafale F3-R is notable for its Talios targeting pod and Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. Tactical evaluation of these and other systems (such as the RBE2 AESA radar) formed a key element of the approval process, the MoD noted.

The F3-R will also continue to carry the ASMPA medium-range nuclear cruise missile.

France is investing €2.7 billion ($3.2 billion) in developing new versions of Rafale under its 2019-2025 defence expenditure plan. New capabilities will be added to Rafale in the F4 standard from 2022, for instance.

‘The [F4] aircraft will include innovative connectivity solutions offering enhanced networked combat operation capabilities,’ the MoD noted. ‘Enhanced radar sensors and forward optronics will also be added, as well as a helmet-mounted display and new integrated weapons, such as the air-to-air MICA NG missile and the modular 1,000kg air-to-ground weapon.’

The French Air and Space Force is expected to take delivery of F4 aircraft in 2023-2026, according to Shephard Defence Insight.

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