Dassault Aviation has received the F3 R standard development contract from the French Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the Rafale multi-role combat aircraft.
An evolution of the Rafale F3 standard, the F3 R configuration is a part of the ongoing process to continuously enhance the aircraft in line with operational requirements.
The standard will enable the company to integrate a range of equipment and weapons onto the aircraft, including MBDA-built Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, Thales new-gen laser designation pod (PDL-NG) and the laser homing variant of the Sagem air-to-ground modular weapon (AASM).
In addition to this, the contract will include modifications to Rafale sensors and to other systems to ensure total interoperability.
Specifically, the F3 R standard launch is expected to reinforce Rafale's strong points in export competitions, ensure that French forces continue to have a high-performance aircraft adapted to their requirements and contribute to maintain the competences of the design bureaux of Dassault Aviation and its industrial partners at a world-class level.
The launch also confirms the ongoing enhancement process and opens the way to future developments for France and other export customers.
The evaluation of the F3 R standard is scheduled to take place in 2018.
Powered by two SNECMA M88 engines, the Rafale is a delta-wing multi-role jet fighter designed to conduct air-to-air combat, reconnaissance flights and nuclear bombing missions and can also carry anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
Representing the first aircraft to operate from both a land base and an aircraft carrier, the aircraft can also attack land and naval targets and provide close air support to ground troops.
The aircraft entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006.
Image: French defence minister Jean-Yves le Drian awarding Rafale F3 R standard development contract to Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier at the company's Mérignac plant in France. Photo: Dassault Aviation 2013 ©.