The latest F4-1 variant of the Dassault Rafale fighter jet has recently undergone the first series of combat tests, the French Ministry of Defense said in a press release.
According to reports, the tests of F4-1 were conducted between April 26 and 29, involving test crews from the French Air Force, the French Navy, and Dassault Aviation, under the stewardship of the Director-General of Armament (DGA).
The DGA is the French government’s defense procurement and technology agency responsible for project management, development, and purchase of weapon systems for the French military.
During the trials, two Rafale F4-1s flew as part of a wider aerial component of eight combat aircraft (two Rafale Ms, two Mirage-2000s, and two Alpha Jets) that performed realistic combat scenarios. Eight complex missions representing 50 aircraft sorties were carried out by test crews.
The pilots of F4-1 Rafales wore new SCORPION helmets and were able to implement “new collaborative combat features [of the aircraft]”. These new helmet-mounted sights are a part of the F4 upgrade program, which includes a new OSF (long-range optoelectronics system) adding enhancements to the IRST (Infrared Search and Track) for detecting and identifying airborne stealth targets at long range.
The new Rafales will also integrate more lethal weapons in its arsenal: the MICA NG short-to-medium range air-to-air missile with an improved range and matrix sensor for greater sensitivity.
Additionally, a new 1,000 kg version of the AASM Hammer precision-guided munition would enable the Rafale pilots to strike ground targets with a lot more firepower. As of now, the munition comes with a 250-kg guided bomb.
Upgrades will be made to its RBE2 AESA radar, the Thales TALIOS long-range targeting pod, communications suite, and a new engine control unit.
All the French Rafales would be upgraded to the F4 standard by 2030.
Dassault Aviation is reported to have even offered the F4 version to the Indian air force, where the demand for the latest generation aircraft remains very high.
In fact, the IAF chief RKS Bhadauria during his upcoming visit to France around April 20-22 this year reportedly got a briefing about the F4 standard Rafales.
Right now, the Indian Air Force’s Rafales are built as F3-R-standard aircraft, but they come with customized additions. A Dassault-owned, test-configured Rafale B with Indian-specific modifications started flying at Istres-Le Tubé in France in August 2018. It has carried as many as 14 distinct Indian Air Force modifications to the baseline F3-R standard aircraft.
Indian Rafales feature an upgraded variant of the Thales Front Sector Optronics System, which includes SAGEM infra-red search-and-track. They also constitute Elbit Display and Sight Helmet, a transformed radar altimeter and a cold start engine capability for high-altitude missions. They also include software modifications for the AESA radar.
Dassault will complete all deliveries of 36 aircraft to India by this year, and there is expected to be another deal for the Rafale aircraft by India for more jets, which experts say would definitely be the F4 standard.