MERIGNAC, France, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The French government has given the go-ahead to Dassault Aviation to develop the F3 R, a new standard model of the Rafale combat aircraft.
The F3 R standard, an evolution of the Rafale F3, is part of the ongoing process to improve the aircraft and will feature the integration of the European Meteor long-range air-to-air missile produced by MBDA following last year's introduction of active array radar on new production aircraft.
The new R series of aircraft will also feature a Thales PDL-NG new-generation laser designator pod for air-to-ground strikes, a laser homing version of the Sagem AASM Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon (2) and upgrades to Rafale sensors and systems.
"This [the contract] is a clear signal of our commitment to invest in the Rafale, and in a very strategic sector, that of combat aviation, so as to maintain it as the best in the world," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. "It also guarantees the long-term availability of a line of products that continue to meet the requirements of the export market."