Pilots and navigators of the 4th Fighter Squadron recently left the Expeditionary Air Base in the Levant, replaced by the fighter jets of the 30th Fighter Squadron. After having carried out more than 250 sorties in just under 1,300 flight hours, the two-seater Rafale are giving way to single-seater aircraft upgraded to F3R standard, deployed for the first time in an external theater of operations. Captain Thomas, a Rafale pilot, explains the changes this upgrade will bring to the operation.
Captain, can you explain the main modifications to the Rafale’s new standard?
“This new standard brings many new features to the aircraft. Currently, pending the arrival of the Talios laser designation pod, the new standard increases the flexibility of use of munitions and broadens their strike capabilities, thanks to the very latest version of the AASM modular air-launched weapon. It is now possible to make weapon adjustments from the cockpit, which increases our operational efficiency and our adaptation anytime and anywhere.
“There is also the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS), which is a system that knows the cartography of the terrain overflown and constantly monitors the altitude of the aircraft, so if a pilot loses consciousness, the airplane will take control on its own.”
Can you explain to us what the F3R will concretely bring to Operation Chammal?
“This new version of the Rafale will definitely bring more flexibility with regard to air-to-ground fire: it will now be possible for us to adapt our weaponry from the plane’s cockpit to achieve the desired effect.
“With the Talios laser designation pod, which will be deployed soon, an improvement will be made since we will be able to process smaller targets and observe them from the air, having the opportunity to better identify and characterize targets on the ground.”
Launched on September 19, 2014, Operation Chammal represents the French participation to the international operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), which brings together 80 countries and organizations. In coordination with the Iraqi government and French allies in the region, Operation Chammal provides military support to local forces engaged in the fight against Daesh on their territory. Operation Chammal now focuses on its "support" pillar and has 600 soldiers working within OIR headquarters or on air and sea deployments.