One of the French navy’s first Dassault Rafale M combat aircraft has been returned to the nation’s DGA defence procurement agency, following the completion of an upgrade activity to bring it to the latest F3 operating standard.

Handed over on 3 October, aircraft M10 is from a first batch of naval-variant Rafales which were produced from the late 1990s in a basic F1 configuration. These were “limited to [air] superiority and air defence missions only”, according to Dassault.

Rafale M10 - Dassault


Required modifications to these early Rafale Ms includes making changes to their electrical wiring and weapons storage systems and Thales-produced radar and electronic warfare equipment, plus the replacement of their mission computers and cockpit displays.

Rafale M10 upgrade - Dassault


“The delivery of the retrofitted Rafale Marine aircraft will be staggered over a period up to 2017,” Dassault says. The modernisation programme is worth around €240 million ($304 million), the DGA says.

Production of the multi-role combat aircraft in Mérignac has seen 133 of the 180 aircraft ordered so far for the French air force and navy, the airframer adds. Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database records the services as having respective active fleets of 86 B/C-model Rafales and 25 Ms, respectively.

The Rafale M will be the French navy’s lone strike fighter from 2016, when the service will retire the last of its Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé aircraft. MiliCAS records 26 of the latter type as still being in use.

Source: Flight International