The future standard Rafale Can F5 evolve into a Super Rafale ?

A few days ago, the first Rafale to the F4.1 standard was delivered to the Military Air Expertise Center, or CEAM, within air base 118 of Mont-de-Marsan. This new standard will provide the Rafale expected new capabilities, such as the helmet sight, new air-to-air and air-to-ground modes of its engagement system, expanded data fusion and a fully modernized SPECTRA self-protection system.

In addition, the device will be able to implement new ammunition such as the short and medium range air-to-air missile MICA NG which promises to be the best in its category as was the MICA in the early 2000s; the new 2 kg A1000SM precision and propelled heavy bomb capable of eliminating the most hardened bunkers, as well as the new Talios designation pod.

All of the Rafale F3R currently in service with the French air and naval forces, as well as probably exported aircraft, will evolve towards this standard in the years to come. As for the new devices which will be delivered from 2025, they will be to the F4.2 standard, which offers the same functionalities, but which prepares the arrival of a major evolution of the Rafale to come, the F5 standard.

The previous standards made it possible to evolve the first F1 of the French Navy limited to air-air missions and F2 of the Air Force dedicated to air-ground missions, towards the F3 standard then F3R omnirole, then towards the F4.1. XNUMX which allows Rafale to approach the famous 5th generation thanks to reinforced data processing capabilities.

The expected performance of Rafale F5

The F5 standard, and before it the F4.2 which paved the way for it, on the other hand represent a major evolution of the device both in the technological and capacity fields, requiring the Rafale to evolve physically to accommodate new systems and equipment. First consequence, the Rafale prior to version F4.2 will not be able to fully evolve towards this standard, and it is likely that a double branch of evolution will emerge from the F4 standard. Above all, the F5 will have capabilities allowing it to approach not the 5th generation of combat aircraft like the F-35 or the Su-57, but the 6th generation of the FCAS or the NGAD.

Rafale F41 Mont de Marsan CEAM Fighter aviation | Defense Analysis | Military aircraft construction
Le premier Rafale F4.1 arrived this weekend at the CEAM in Mont-de-Marsan

Indeed, the Rafale F5 will have capabilities that break with those of previous standards, such as the implementation of new ASN4G hypersonic nuclear missile which will replace the ASMPA-Re, new cruise and anti-ship missiles from the Franco-British FMAN and FMC programs as well as, very probably, a new anti-radar munition, the F5 having to be able to penetrate and evolve above non-permissive environments strongly defended by the anti-aircraft means which will exist in 2035 and beyond.

Especially the Rafale F5 will have to implement and control combat drones such as the Remote Carrier being developed as part of the FCAS program, which will allow it to considerably extend its detection and engagement capabilities, these drones being precisely designed to carry detectors (radar, electro-optical systems, listening systems electronics, etc.) or effectors (missiles, bombs, jamming or electronic warfare systems, etc.).

It is precisely this last capacity which will allow the Rafale F5 to claim to be the 6th generation of combat aircraft, or at least as close to it. Due to the immense technological and capacity progression characterizing this standard, its development will undoubtedly be longer than the previous ones, since the device will not enter service before 2035, and very probably the most expensive, even if part of the developments will be shared with the FCAS program.

However, the F5 will not constitute, strictly speaking, a new device, even though it will break with one of the most attractive characteristics of the Rafale both for French and foreign armies, namely its scalability. In this context, would it not be appropriate to develop not a new standard, but a real new device derived from Rafale F4 as the Gripen E/F may have previously been in relation to the Gripen C/D, the F/A-18E Super Hornet in relation to the F/A-18C/D Hornet, or even the Super Standard vis-à-vis Standard IV?

super hornet boeing 2 Fighters aircraft | Defense Analysis | Military aircraft construction
Although taking up the lines of the Hornet, the Super Hornet is a new aircraft, significantly more imposing and with significantly increased capabilities allowing it to replace, in addition to the first F-18s, the A-6 prowler tactical bombers and the air superiority fighters F-14 Tomcat.

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