Dassault wins French contract to upgrade the Rafale fighter

FILE PHOTO: A French Navy Rafale fighter jet is seen aboard the upgraded aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle", off the coast of Toulon, France, November 14, 2018. Christophe Simon/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) - France’s Dassault Aviation said on Monday it had received a contract from the French government to update the Rafale fighter jet as plans simultaneously gather speed for a longer-term project to build a Franco-German successor.

The so-called F4 version of the multi-role Rafale, which is being developed for a reported investment of 2 billion euros, will include greater connectivity to allow “networked combat,” Dassault said in a statement.

It will also involve upgraded sensors and optronics, a sophisticated helmet-mounted display and the integration of new air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.

The upgrade to France’s national fighter program comes as Paris and Berlin fine-tune plans to commission studies for a future Franco-German aerial combat system known as FCAS.

Two industry sources said the first-stage study contract, providing funding for design studies for a manned and unmanned system to replace the Rafale and rival Eurofighter, was expected to be signed at the end of January.

The venture is set to become Europe’s largest ever defense project and is being led by Dassault on behalf of the French aerospace industry and Airbus, whose defense arm is a partner in the four-nation Eurofighter, on behalf of Germany.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in first paragraph)

Reporting by Tim Hepher, Andrea Shalal; editing by Richard Lough