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Author Topic: Rafale Production Drop Confirmed  (Read 4530 times)

Offline tigershark

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Rafale Production Drop Confirmed
« on: March 23, 2009, 12:31:34 AM »
Rafale Production Drop Confirmed
Mar 20, 2009

Michael A. Taverna/Paris

Dassault Aviation confirms that deliveries of Rafale fighters to the French air force and navy will slow as a result of redrawn priorities in France's new 2009-13 defense spending plan.

The plan, currently awaiting parliamentary approval, is oriented towards protection of forces in the field, deep strike, force projection and ballistic missile defense. To help defray the cost of these initiatives, Cold War programs like the Rafale and Tiger helicopter will be cut back.

So far, however, the only concrete measure taken was the elimination last year of a squadron of nuclear strike aircraft.

But Chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne said March 19 that the current rate of Rafale production, 1.2 aircraft per month, is headed for a sharp drop. The rate will decline from 14 this year to 11 annually starting in 2010 and will remain at this level -- the minimum considered viable -- even if one of several export deals in negotiation now leads to a breakthrough on the international market. Export sales, Edelstenne said, will simply allow French forces to stretch out their own deliveries further.

Despite the production rollback, the French government still intends to keep ordering new Rafales, at least for now. Last year, it converted eight options that had been created to help fund improvements to the aircraft to make it more attractive for export customers to firm up buys. The government has confirmed that it will purchase another batch of 60 aircraft this year.

Qualification of the F3 full multirole standard last year, along with a second deployment to Afghanistan, is expected to boost export chances. So is a slate of further improvements currently way, including an active array radar antenna.

Edelstenne declines to comment on Rafale export negotiations, including efforts by the United Arab Emirates -- considered one of the most serious candidates -- to find a buyer for its 60 Mirage 2000-9s. Last week, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of French armaments agency DGA, said France was not interested in taking back the 2000-9s. But he points out that training requirements would keep the Mirage 2000-9s in service at least through 2013-14.

He confirms that discussions are underway with the UAE to develop a higher powered hot-and-high version of the Rafale for its requirements. Executives at Snecma, which makes the Rafale's M-88 engine, also confirm these reports.



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