Warplanes: Rafale Scores Another Win


May 8, 2016: India has finally, after years of negotiations, placed an order for 36 Dassault Rafale Fighter jets. This includes accessories, training, tech support and a ten year maintenance contract. All this drives the per-aircraft price up to $247 million.

India has been seeking to modernize its military and France wanted to build up its relationship with India and did all it could to persuade India to purchase the Rafale. After all the Indian air force is already using the French Mirage 2000 and has historically liked Dassualt aircraft. The two main sticking points during the final negotiations were Rafale’s rising price tag and whether India will be able to produce the fighter domestically. India insists on coproduction (some Rafale manufacturing done in India) and the French believed India overestimated its capabilities in handling some of the advanced technologies that go into Rafale. Of course India wants local manufacturers to handle that advanced tech and this is how you learn. But India also wants the French held responsible for the quality of items produced in India and resolving that required some intense bargaining over the last year. Details of how some of these issues were resolved were not released, at least not yet. All that is known for sure is that terms were agreed to.

Meanwhile France has begun delivering export orders for Rafale to other customers. In January 2016 Egypt received another three Rafale jet fighters from France. The first three arrived in July 2015, four months after Egyptian pilots and maintainers arrived in France for training. The Egyptian Rafales required a few modifications, mainly the removal of the hardware and software required for the aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons as well as the NATO communications equipment. This was replaced with what communications gear is currently standard in Egyptian warplanes (largely F-16s). Egypt wants to receive all 24 Rafales before it considering order more so France is seeking to complete delivery by 2017.

The Rafale costs between $100 and $130 million. Its design was based heavily off the Mirage 2000 and like most other Dassault fighters it has the Delta Wing configuration. The Rafale has a maximum speed of 2,130 kilometers an hour and a range of over 3,700 kilometers. It is equipped with a 30mm cannon and can carry nine tons worth of weapons. It is a battle tested aircraft that has already seen service with French Forces in Afghanistan, Mali, Libya and Iraq.

This sale to Egypt is a big deal for France, as is the one to India. Over the past few years’ export buyers for the Rafale have been scarce. The Rafale is up against stiff competition for sales from aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen NG, F-18 and Su-30. Thus in 2013 Brazil passed on buying the Rafale and instead went with the cheaper Swedish Gripen NG. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is still considering a purchase as is India. The sale to Egypt was a much needed encouragement for others to buy an aircraft that has not been selling well. What helped make this sale happen was Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE providing half the financing and the French government guaranteeing most of the rest. Egypt is not a good credit risk and has been kept afloat since 2011 by massive charity from Gulf Arab oil states (like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE).




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