We’ve written recently about the latest packages of enhancements for the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen, and now it’s the turn of the Dassault Rafale.
Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (pictured below in Rex Features-sourced image) visited Dassault’s Mérignac final assembly site on 10 January, where details of the F3 R-standard deal were announced. Agreed by the manufacturer and France’s DGA defence procurement agency last month, this covers a range of sensor and system upgrades for the “omnirole” type.
The key aspects are full integration of the laser-guided version of Sagem’s AASM “Hammer” air-to-surface missile (which has already been employed in Mali via an urgent operational requirement project) and MBDA’s Meteor air-to-air missile, plus a new-generation laser designation pod to be developed by Thales, with all of the new bells and whistles to be validated in 2018.
Still hurting after its rejection by Brazil (which last month picked the Gripen NG), Dassault says the F3 R enhancements “open the way for future developments for France and export customers”.
The hugely competitive fighter market delivers knocks to all manufacturers from time to time, but Dassault and its partners must be wondering what they have to do to secure that elusive first international order for the very capable Rafale; a type which has been proven in combat over Afghanistan, Libya and Mali so far. Off the top of my head (let me know if I’ve imagined any of these, or forgotten any others), the manufacturer has now tasted disappointment in Brazil, Morocco, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and also so far with the United Arab Emirates.
On the positive side, the Rafale remains in pole position for India’s 126-aircraft MMRCA requirement. Almost two years on from giving the French bid team so-called L1 vendor status, will 2014 see New Delhi giving it a welcome production boost? Sign that deal and the programme will look a whole lot more healthy.