French naval fighter squadron Flottille 17F, which formerly operated the Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM) aircraft, has completed its transition to the Dassault Aviation Rafale M.

The transition, which began in 2016 soon after the SEM was withdrawn from service, means that Flottille 17F has now officially joined the French Navy's two other fighter squadrons, 11F and 12F, in operating the aircraft type.

The Rafale M has been tasked with carrying out a wide range of operations for the squadrons, including fleet air defence, close air support, anti-ship strikes, and air-to-air refuelling.

As part of efforts to hone the squadron's lethality, Flotille 17F will in the next few months conduct test-firings of the MBDA AM39 Block 2 Mod 2 Exocet anti-ship missile on its sorties from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

The F3 standard involves the following changes:

» New modular electronic computers,
» New cockpit screens,
» Changes to the aircraft’s electrical wiring,
» Upgrading of the Spectra countermeasures system,
» New AESA antenna,
» Changes to the weapon store stations.

The delivery of the retrofitted Rafale Marine aircraft was a staggered effort.

The F3 standard provides the Navy with complete versatility to carry out the following missions:

» Interception and air-to-air combat with 30 mm gun and Mica IR/EM missiles (+ Meteor missiles from 2018 onwards).
» Ground support with 30 mm gun, GBU-12/24 laser-guided bombs and Hammer precision-guided bombs.
» In depth strikes with Scalp cruise missiles.
» Sea strikes with the Exocet AM39 Block 2 missile and other air-to-surface weapons.
» Real-time strategic and tactical reconnaissance with the Areos pod.
» In-flight refuelling from one Rafale to another (“buddy-buddy”).
» Nuclear deterrence with the ASMP-A missile.