|French Air Force declares initial operating capability for Rafale F3R standard. (Photo: Defence Procurement Agency).|
On December 6, 2019, the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) declared the initial operating capability (IOC) for the Rafale F3-R standard. It marks a first important milestone for the F3-R variant, which will be completed with the integration of the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and Thales Talios targeting pod in the first half of 2020. However, this standard represents only a first step pending the arrival of the F4 variant. The development of the F4 standard was launched at the end of 2018 and will continue to evolve to bring combat aircraft to the Future Air Combat System (SCAF).
The Rafale is a new generation fighter plane that joined the French Navy in 2004 and the French Air Force in 2006. Since then the Rafale has undergone a constant evolution to reach its current operational capacity that allows it to be an effective multi-role aircraft in the various war theaters in which it is deployed. Since 2014, under the Chammal operation, the Rafale has carried out over 11,000 take-offs to conduct intelligence missions and carry out 1,500 air strikes on over 2400 neutralized targets.
The Rafale F3-R version boasts the Israeli-produced integrated Elgo Systems TARGO II helmet, the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, as well as being equipped with the NATO Link 16 radio transmission system and AESA RBE2 radars to electronic scanning that allows the hiring of 8 simultaneous targets while maintaining the tracking of 40 other targets. In addition to 14 pylons for attaching weapons, the Rafale is equipped with a 30mm Nexter DEFA 791B internal cannon.