Dassault has been contracted by the French government to begin development work on the new F4 standard for the Rafale fighter.
Upgrades over the current F3 and F3R variants include the integration of MBDA's Mica NG air-to-air missile and the Safran Defence 1,000kg (2,200lb) AASM air-to-surface weapon, alongside improvements to sensors, including radar and connectivity.
Validation of the F4 standard is planned for 2024, with some functions becoming available as of 2022.
Unveiling the €2 billion ($2.29 billion) contract during a visit to Dassault's Merignac, Bordeaux production line, French defence minister Florence Parly described the F4 standard as a "leap in technology, industry and strategy".
She says that by 2024, an additional 28 Rafales will have been delivered, with another 30 ordered in 2023.
"The F4 standard guarantees that the Rafale will remain at a world-class level so that our combat air forces can carry out all their missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrent," says chief executive Eric Trappier.
This article was updated on 15 January with additional information in the fifth paragraph.