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Dassault Aviation, which is developing a 6th generation fighter program to replace its current Rafale fighter jet, has assured current operators that it will continue to provide service and spare support for the fleet until 2070. Despite beginning production of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) for the European conglomerate involved in the program in 2035, Dassault Aviation has made this commitment to its existing customers.

The FCAS program, which is set to begin production sometime between 2035 and 2040, will replace the French Dassault Rafale in the French Air Force. However, Dassault has planned two significant upgrades to the Rafale program, the F4.1 standard, aimed at enhancing the connectivity of the Rafale through new satellite and intra-flight links, communications servers, and software radios. This upgrade is intended to improve the Rafale’s effectiveness in net-centric combat and pave the way for the FCAS.

In December 2018, the development of the F4 standard was initiated. Flight tests of the F4 upgrade were conducted by the DGA from April 2021, with clearance of the full F4 standard expected in 2024, and some functions to be available in an initial standard by 2022. It is projected that all French Rafales currently in service will be upgraded to the Rafale F4.2 standard by 2030.

The upcoming Rafale F5 Standard, expected after 2030, will incorporate new cruise and anti-ship missiles from the Franco-British FMAN and FMC programs, and possibly a new anti-radar munition. The F5 version will need to have the capability to penetrate heavily defended anti-aircraft environments and control combat drones, such as the Remote Carrier from the SCAF program, to expand its detection and engagement capabilities. These drones will be specifically designed to carry detectors and effectors, including radar, electro-optical systems, listening systems electronics, missiles, bombs, jamming or electronic warfare systems, among others.

The Rafale F5 Standard, set to be introduced in 2030, is expected to remain in production until around 2040 before the production line shifts to the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). During this period, the F5 will be available for export to current Rafale operators before production ceases.

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