French Defense Ministry has launched the development of the F4 standard upgrade for the Dassault Rafale fighter jet.
This incremental capability addition will adapt Rafale to meet future threat scenarios and will be fully available from 2025. The F4 Standard will follow the F3-R standard, which is scheduled for qualification in 2018.
The F4 Standard development will be based on operational feedback, and will concentrate on improvements to networking capabilities and sensors of the aircraft, in addition to expected evolution to engines and missiles.
Some features of the F4 could be fielded as early as 2023, according to French Defense Ministry. The F4 capability will be gradually fielded to all French Rafale fighter jets, and will also available for export customers.
Dassault Rafale's capabilities are incrementally developed. The first F1 standard featured only air-to-air capabilities, which became operational in 2004 with the French Navy Rafale Ms.
The F2 standard entered service with French Air Force and the French Navy in 2006 with air-to-air and air-to-ground capability.
The current F3 standard was qualified in 2008. It adds air reconnaissance with the AREOS recce pod, anti-ship with the AM39 EXOCET and the nuclear capability with the ASMPA.
The F3R standard development which began in 2014, will enable integration of the MBDA METEOR long-range air-to-air missile, Thales TALIOS new-generation laser designator pod and laser homing version of the Sagem AASM Air-to-Ground HAMMER bombs.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base and can perform air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence missions.
French Air Force and Navy have placed a combined order for 180 of these omni-role fighter jets, and is expected to place an additional order for 45 aircraft to replace the retiring Mirage 2000 jets. Egypt Qatar and India have signed contracts for 24, 24 and 36 aircraft respectively.
Currently Egypt is the only export operator of the type, operating six of the type since 2015. India and Qatar is expected to start receiving the aircraft from 2019 and 2018 respectively.