France Air Force takes delivery of first upgraded Rafale F4

France Air Force first Rafale F4
First Rafale F4 arrives at Mont-de-Marsan (BA 118) Air Base, south-west France.

The French Air and Space Force recently received the first of its most advanced Rafale fighters, hitting a major milestone after four years of development.

The service's Air Warfare Center, located at the 118th Air Base in southwestern France, took delivery of the first standard F4.1 Rafale on March 2, according to the French Ministry of Defense.

Development of the F4 standard began in 2019 after then French Defense Minister Florence Parly signed a 2 billion euro ($2.12 billion) contract with manufacturer Dassault.

The aircraft was originally one of several F3R-standard Rafales delivered starting earlier this year to the French military procurement office Direction Generale de l’Armement (DGA). The aircraft underwent a "software transformation" and transitioned to the F4 standard at the DGA's flight test center in Istres, near Marseille.

A second Rafale F4 is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks. The aircraft will then be integrated into the service's 30th Fighter Wing to begin training in anticipation of an initial operational capability (IOC) decision.

France Air Force first Rafale F4

France's DGA began flight tests for the F4 standard in April 2021, and the aircraft is slated for full availability by 2025.

The new standard includes upgrades to existing capabilities like the Thales AESA radar and Talios targeting pod along with the Rafale's electronic warfare system and communications suite.

New capabilities for the F4 include the Thales Scorpion Helmet Mounted Display, MBDA's MICA NG (Next-Generation) air-to-air missile and the 1,000 kilogram variant of Safran's AASM (armement air-sol modulaire) "Hammer" precision-guided munition.

France's 2023 defense budget prioritizes an order for 42 new Rafale combat aircraft for the Air Force, as well as development of the next generation Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

France Air Force first Rafale F4

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: French Ministry of Defense

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