Thales, as a member of the Rafale joint venture (Groupement d’Intérêt Economique), has been awarded a contract by the French defence procurement agency (DGA) to contribute to the development of the Rafale F4 standard, enabling the Rafale combat aircraft to maintain its superiority against new threats.
Today, the Rafale is capable of performing multiple roles, ranging from reconnaissance to air defence and precision strikes, in the course of a single mission. The aircraft is also central to France's airborne nuclear deterrence, a crucial component of France’s National Security policy, which calls for the highest standards of levels of technological excellence. Tomorrow's combat aircraft aircrews will face a broader range of threats in increasingly complex operational environments, and will therefore need to analyse larger volumes of data in very short timeframes to ensure mission success and protect civil populations. The sophisticated electronic equipment and systems Thales equips on the Rafale, from nose-to-tail, will help these aircrews meet these challengers.
Under the Rafale F4 standard development programme, Thales engineers and technicians will enhance the aircraft's onboard sensors and improve connectivity to offer a broader range of capabilities and new operational functions by enabling greater interconnection between the Rafale and all the other assets deployed on the mission. Collaborative combat is now crucial for taking part in coalition operations, countering new types of threats and conducting sovereignty operations. In particular, Thales will prepare for the introduction of the CONTACT radio; secure, intelligent communications server technology; and a Syracuse IV satellite communications capability. To ensure high survivability, new threat detection and jamming capabilities will be developed for the aircraft's SPECTRA electronic warfare system. Further improvements to the air-to-ground mode of the RBE2 active electronic scanning array (AESA) radar are also planned. In addition, the TALIOS optronic pod will incorporate artificial intelligence to analyse tactical data almost instantaneously in flight and extract and identify targets.
The enhancements will enable aircrews to assess tactical situations more effectively, handle significantly larger volumes of information in real time, and make the best choices in every decisive moment in order to safely and securely locate, identify, classify and engage threats, and to assess and analyse the results of the action taken. To meet the needs of users, armed forces also need a high level of equipment availability. The development of predictive maintenance based on technologies such as Big Data and artificial intelligence is a key component of Thales's strategy. The purpose of predictive maintenance is to anticipate failures before they occur: Thales's new developments for the Rafale F4 standard aim to make this objective a reality.
"This contract is a further endorsement by the French Ministry for the Armed Forces of the industrial know-how and advanced technology expertise of French defence contractors. The Rafale F4 standard's sensors and communication systems will be a key driver of the shift towards collaborative combat, and Thales's capabilities in connectivity and artificial intelligence will enable Rafale air crews to make the best choices in every decisive moment," Patrice Caine, Chairman & CEO, Thales.