Lucky Year For French Dassault Rafales
Rafale seen from the front of the Sanicole Airshow in Belgium. Photo taken by Tom Houquet./www.dassault-aviation.com
On May 28, Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic claimed that Zagreb had agreed to buy a batch of second-hand Rafale F3-R fighter jets from France in a deal worth one billion euros ($1.2 billion). Croatia’s Air Force is aiming to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters.
“The purchase of the multirole fighter aircraft will strengthen Croatia’s position as a member of NATO and a partner within the European Union. For the first time, we will reach 2 percent of the GDP allocated to strengthening our defense capabilities,” Plenković said, as quoted in a statement released by his government.
In addition to the aircraft, the contract will cover weapon systems, spare parts, logistics and training.
The first six twin-engine aircraft should be delivered in 2024, and the other six Rafales should be supplied the following year.
On May 4, Egypt confirmed the signing of a contract with France to buy 30 Rafale fighter jets in a deal that investigative website Disclose said was worth $4.5bn.
On May 28, another batch of three Rafale fighter jets landed at the Ambala airbase on Thursday, taking the total number of Rafales in the Indian Air Force to 23. It is expected that the full deliveries of 36 Rafale aircraft will be completed by April 2022 as announced by Defence minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament.
On January 25, 2021, in Athens, Theodoros Lagios, Director General for Procurement and Investment of the Greek Ministry of National Defense, and Eric Trappier, head of the French company Dassault Aviation, signed a contract to supply the Greek Air Force with 18 Dassault Rafale fighters.
12 will be transferred from the French Air Force (it is assumed that 12 new aircraft will then be ordered to compensate for the French Air Force delivered to Greece), and six will be newly built Dassault Aviation F3-R series aircraft. Deliveries should begin in the summer of 2021, the contract also includes a package of technical and service support for a period of 4.5 years.
Negotiations are under way for the sale of 36 Rafale aircraft to Indonesia. Egypt, India and Qatar are planning to acquire additional consignments of the aircraft. Moreover, French Rafale is in a short list of candidates for renewal of Ukrainian fleet of fighter jets.
The Rafale has become a new export hit for the French military-industrial complex and has all chances to gain the title of one of the best-selling 4 ++ generation fighters on the world market.
The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006, gradually replacing the seven types of previous-generation combat aircraft. It has proven itself in external operations in various theatres: Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. Of the 180 aircraft ordered by France to date, 152 have been delivered.
According to Dassault, Rafale is the only totally “omnirole” aircraft in the world, able to operate from a land base or an aircraft carrier, capable of carrying 1.5 times its weight in weapons and fuel.
It can perform in a variety of missions:
- Interception and air-to-air combat using a 30-mm gun, Mica IR/EM missiles and Meteor missiles.
- Close air support using a 30-mm gun, GBU laser-guided bombs and AASM GPS-guided bombs.
- Deep strike using Scalp-Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
- Maritime strike using the Exocet AM39 Block 2 missile and other air-to-surface weapons.
- Real-time tactical and strategic reconnaissance using the Areos pod.
- Buddy-buddy in-flight refueling
- Nuclear deterrence using the ASMP-A missile.
Despite the impact of COVID pandemic and the recent death of Olivier Dassault, Dassault seems to be returning to its production targets. While selling Rafale F3 abroad, it is actively working on a new aircraft standard.
After being announced more than two years ago, French Dassault’s Rafale F4-1 standard fighter jet went through flight tests.
The trials took place at Istres airbase in southern France between April 26 and 29. Overall, two Rafale F4-1 fighter jets were tested, as part of a wider aerial component of 8 warplanes.
It was a French team effort. The trials were led by the Directorate General of Armament (DGA). Eight complex missions of 50 aircraft sorties were carried out by test crews from the DGA, the French Navy, the French Air and Space Force, and Dassault Aviation.
When the warplane was launched back in January 2019, Dassault said the F4-1 standard will include enhancements to the Thales RBE2 active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar, the Thales TALIOS long-range airborne targeting pod and the Reco NG reconnaissance pod.
In addition, the aircraft’s were upgraded with communications suite, improved pilot helmet-mounted displays and to the engine control unit.
The F4 standard marks a new step coming in the wake of the standards F1 (specific to the first aircraft of the French Navy), F2 (air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities), F3 and F3R (extended versatility). Its validation is planned for 2024, with some functions becoming available as of 2022.
“The F4 standard guarantees that RAFALE will remain at a world-class level so that our combat air forces can carry out all their missions with optimum efficiency, whether in coalition operations or completely independently, as required by the French nuclear deterrent, stated Eric TRAPPIER. This new standard also guarantees that RAFALE will remain a credible reference on the export market. Lastly, it confirms the continuous improvement approach and helps develop the manufacturers’ skills.”
Dassault seems to be quite hype about the new warplane, and if all the promises turn out true, this is with good reason. It is a completely justified expectation.
It doesn’t have “stealth” and is not “virtually invisible” but also costs much less than a US-made F-35 fighter jet, and it would be an impressive feat if it manages to have as many issues surrounding it.
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