March 23 (UPI) -- The French Ministry of Defense has given the green light for Dassault Aviation to begin developing the Rafale jet's F4 standard.
The upgrade aims to provide the legacy F3-R standard jets with updated technological capabilities. Dassault representatives say the plan will make the fighters more effective during combat missions.
"I am delighted by the Minister for Defense's decision," Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said in a press release. "The F4 standard will incorporate operational experience feedback and enable continuous improvement of the Rafale to be maintained. It will reinforce the national skills and technological capabilities essential for preparing the development of the next generation of combat aircraft."
French defense leaders expect to begin qualification for the F4 standard in 2018.
The Rafale is a twin-jet, multirole fighter primarily operated by the French armed forces. The plane is fitted to perform a balanced set of missions, including air defense, power projection, deep strike, air support and reconnaissance operations.
The governments of India, Egypt and Qatar have all placed orders for Rafale aircraft.