PARIS, April 23 (UPI) -- The French government has announced it is upgrading F-1 Rafale fighters for operational capability equivalent to that of F-3 models.
The 10 Rafale Marine aircraft were in the early 2000s qualified only for air-to-air operations and for in-flight refueling. The upgrade will allow them to perform ground-attack and reconnaissance missions.
It will also give them the capability for nuclear strike.
Christophe Carpentier, head of the French defense procurement agency's "Operation Retrofit F1-F3," said the upgrade program will involve Dassault Aviation, MBDA, Thales and Sagem. Government agencies involved include the aviation industrial service SIAe, the navy and the integrated structure for operational maintenance of defense ministry aviation equipment, SIMMAD.
Carpentier said a challenge for the modernization program is the control of key events, such as the entry of an aircraft into the retrofit program, so that final assembly of retrofit aircraft will be integrated into the main Rafale assembly line without causing delay in production of F-3 models.
The announcement from the French Ministry of Defense gave no time schedule for the modernization effort.