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France

French aircraft Rafale suffers another blow

Text by Marie Sophie JOUBERT

Latest update : 2009-04-22

The Indian defence ministry announced Thursday that it would not be ordering the Rafale military plane by Dassault. The contract, which would have been one of France's biggest defence deals, was worth 12 billion dollars for 126 planes.

In the latest disappointment for the Rafale aircraft by Dassault, the Indian defence ministry announced Thursday that it would not be ordering the French military plane. The contract, which would have been one of France's biggest defence deals,  was worth 12 billion dollars for 126 planes.

 

“The Rafale didn’t meet our usual conditions,” explained the Indian defence ministry. “Dassault cannot submit new proposals or offer alternatives for technical evaluations, and it is permanently shelved.”

 

An official at the defence ministry, speaking on terms of anonymity, told AFP that “the relatively high cost of the plane” was the final determining factor. This brings to mind the controversial public speech by French Defence Minister Hervé Morin in September 2007, in which he admitted that the plane was “very sophisticated, and hard to sell.”

 

A double blow

 

The Rafale remains one of the French defence ministry’s biggest programmes of the last generation. Designed to fit on an aircraft carrier, it had the capacity to carry out - in the course of one mission – superior flight capabilities, defence, and also reconnaissance and ground attacks. Empowered with two powerful engines, it can also accelerate vertically.

 

Despite its technological prowess, however, the Rafale has never been used outside of France in its 15-year history – a liability for a company that has exported 75% of its planes since 1975.

 

It is also a disappointment for the French government. Since the Franco-Indian summit of September 2008, Paris has been hoping for the 12-billion-dollar exchange to be effective by 2012.

 

Win some, lose some

 

The Rafale only has two potential large-scale buyers: the United Arab Emirates and Libya. Considered the crown jewel of French aeronautics, it also hopes to export to Switzerland and Brazil.

 

According to defence experts, the United Arab Emirates, to whom Dassault hopes to sell about 60 units, could be the first export market for the Rafale. Qatar and Kuwait might also place an order in the near future. Brazil remains, for the moment, a long-term possibility.

 

Greece anticipates purchasing 40 to 60 new combat planes and will announce the winning bid at the end of 2009. The Rafale is in competition with the Boeing F/A-18E/F, the Eurofighter Typhoon as well as a Swedish combat plane model.

 

India’s loss of interest in the Rafale adds to the considerable number of close misses for overseas sales of the plane, including Morocco, South Korea, and Singapore – all of whom, like India, were expected to bite, but backed down.

 


 

Date created : 2009-04-16

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