France’s Dassault Aviation is hard at work developing the latest French Rafale F5 fighter jet. It is expected to enter service in 2030 when the first deliveries are planned. Sources and publications in French media say that perhaps the peak of production will be in the period 2032-2035.
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The French Parliament is already familiar with the Rafale F5 planning. A month ago, a report from the Ministry of Defense, it was officially presented. The military’s report also featured the operational capabilities and alleged combat capability of the F5 version.
There are some confirmed features. For example, F5 will come with an emphasis on electronic warfare [EW]. Recent events in Ukraine have shown both the world and France that electronic countermeasures will play a key role in future conflicts. What the system of choice for the F5 will be is still unclear, but sources say it will be two-way. I.e. it will not only counter enemy weapon platforms but also conduct electronic attacks.
Another innovation will be the F5’s ability to engage by suppressing and destroying enemy air defenses. This is known as SEAD – Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses. This will be done by developing a new anti-radar [anti-radiation] missile.
There is still no concrete information about the stage of development of the anti-radiation missile. It seems that the impact of this type of missile has been underestimated by the French Air Force [FAF]. Years ago, French fighters, most notably the Mirage F.1 and Mirage 2000 series were armed with the ARMAT. This missile had a range of 120 km, and its warhead consisted of a proximity fuse and delayed impact. ARMAT was developed based on the Anglo-French MARTEL missile. France never decided to integrate the ARMAAT missile into the Dassault Rafale.
The F5 will receive many more improvements compared to the current F3 and F4 Rafale used by the French Air Force. It is said that the F5 will cooperate with an attack drone [UCAV], ie. a loyal wingman. The nEURO drone is currently spinning. There is logic in such statements since this drone was designed and developed precisely by Dassault Aviation.
nEURO made its first flight in 2012. The drone is currently being developed at the prototype stage. The drone’s power unit will be built from a single Rolls-Royce/Turboméca Adour, 40 kN [8,992 lbf] thrust engine. nEURO will fly at a maximum speed of 980 km/h at an altitude of up to 14,000 meters. The combat capabilities of the drone are limited to carrying two 230 kg [500 lb] guided bombs.
The new French Rafale F5 will most likely be equipped with new avionics and a mission computer. The reason for this is the claims in the French media that the F5 will include new possibilities for communication and cooperation [distribution and transmission of data and information], new sensors, and weapons. This requires both additional RAM on the mission computer and new computing capabilities.
According to the plan of the French Ministry of Defense, the local air force will try to maintain its Rafale air fleet at least until 2070. This means that the F5 will be able to interact with the European Future Combat Aircraft System [FCAS].
However, according to some, the development of the F5 was a fallback version of the Paris if FCAS failed. Paris has already suffered from “European cooperation” after the situation regarding the new European tank between France and Germany is at a standstill. What’s more, Germany is signaling that the European tank project is second to Berlin’s priorities, as efforts are seriously focused on the production of the Leopard 2A8, and Rheinmetall’s KF51 Panther is also knocking on the doorstep of international markets.
So, it makes perfect sense that Paris is looking for a backup plan if FCAS fails. In truth, there were similar signals, but Paris and Berlin seem to have managed to build their relationship, and together with Spain in March, they finally decided to start the key phase 1B.
However, it seems that despite Phase 1B, Paris has no intention of abandoning Rafale’s F5, which will share some principles with the next generation of European aircraft.
Although the Rafale F5 is still far from being realized in 2023, Dassault Aviation is experiencing a real renaissance in international markets. Threatened to close production lines only a year ago, it now has to open at least one more. The reason – the record orders last year and this year in the entire history of Rafale aircraft.
It is about 164 Rafales on the order book, including 125 for export and 39 for France. Currently based in France, its Rafales are expected to be delivered to the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and Greece.
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