France Started Backfilling Rafale Shortfalls

The French Air and Space Force will be getting 12 new Rafale to replace those being removed from its inventory to sell to Greece, Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Friday.

The announcement comes a few weeks later than originally planned. Florence Parly had told the National Assembly’s Defense Commission last fall that the order would be placed with Dassault Aviation, the Rafale’s manufacturer, before the end of 2020. But that was on the provision that the $3 billion contract with Greece for 18 Rafales had been signed by then.

That Greek contract was signed four days ago so Parly took the opportunity of a visit to Dassault Aviation’s flight controls factory in Argonay, in the French Alps on Jan. 29 to announce the new order. Eric Trappier, Dassault’s CEO, had earlier underlined the fact that “Dassault is the only aircraft manufacturer in the world to design and produce its own flight controls.”

Contracts to Dassault Aviation, Safran (the engine manufacturer) and Thales (the electronics) will be sent out by the DGA procurement agency in the next few days. While no price tag was given during Parly’s announcement, Trappier has previously said one fully equipped fighter costs around 100 million euros, or $121 million, which would put the total package at just under $1.5 billion.

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Parly said the 12 new aircraft would be built to the latest F3R standard. She added, “We sold 18 Rafales to Greece so it is indeed 18 Rafales that Dassault will have to produce.” Speaking at the factory, the defense minister said one Rafale would come off the production line per month, “which represents 7,000 jobs, jobs within Dassault of course, but also within the 500 or so small and medium enterprises that work with you.” She added that in the current economic context “this is good and reassuring news”.

The French Air and Space Force will have its 12 new aircraft by the end of 2025. Together with the 28 Rafales that Dassault is to deliver between 2022 and 2024, this will bring the total to 129, as projected in the 2019-2025 military program law.

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