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Author Topic: United Arab Emirates Closing in on Rafale  (Read 4004 times)

Offline tigershark

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United Arab Emirates Closing in on Rafale
« on: June 23, 2009, 05:16:30 PM »
United Arab Emirates Closing in on Rafale
Jun 22, 2009

Michael A. Taverna/Paris 

The Rafale fighter could be one step away from securing its first export order, following submittal last week to the French government of final technical requirements for a 6-10 billion euro ($8.3-13.8 billion) 60-aircraft purchase by the United Arab Emirates late last week.

Dassault Aviation officials say the document signifies basic agreement on the specifications, permitting the two sides to proceed to negotiation of pricing and financing terms. The French also will have to help find a buyer for the UAE's fleet of 63 Mirage 2000-9 fighters, which the Rafale will replace. Laurent Collet-Billon, head of French armaments agency DGA, says the objective is to sign a contract by year's end. But Dassault Chairman/CEO Charles Edelstenne, mindful of a last-minute loss to the Lockheed Martin F-16 in Morocco in 2008, cautioned "against crying victory before the last whistle blows."

The UAE wants an aircraft reflecting the most advanced current Rafale standard, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Meteor beyond-visual-range air-air missile, Damocles targeting pod, and an enhanced OSF forward infrared search and track system and missile warning receiver. These improvements, including the AESA, are to be introduced into the French armed forces starting in 2012. Meteor integration is slated to begin only in 2013-14 for service entry in 2017-18, but military officials say this date can be moved up if necessary. The UAE envisions replacing its first Mirage 2000-9s in 2013.

The UAE is also demanding a higher thrust version of the fighter's Snecma M88 engine to suit the hot-and-high conditions prevalent in the Middle East. A test program for the new powerplant, aimed at raising thrust to 9 metric tons from 7.5 tons currently, was announced in the run-up to last week's Paris Air Show. The main focus of the program is a new high-pressure core design that will begin running in September as part of a package of improvements, known as the Pack CGP-9T, intended to reduce M88 ownership costs for the French armed forces.

A demonstrator for the low-pressure part of the engine began testing this spring. The test program would enable the higher-power version to be available within three years of contract signature, Snecma executives say.

For the time being, the question of funding the M88 upgrade, estimated to cost 250-300 million euros, remains unresolved. So far, the French government says it has no requirement for the higher-thrust version, which means the UAE would have to pick up the tab - perhaps along with other interested customers like Kuwait, with a similar requirement. But the government had initially dragged its feet at funding the AESA, forcing industry to bear the cost of development through deferral of a six-aircraft Rafale order, only to reinstate the order last year.



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