Close in South Korea, hopeful in Singapore, but still battling for first success

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The Rafale has yet to taste its first export success, having fared well in a South Korean evaluation only to finish runner-up to Boeing's F-15K for an initial 40-aircraft deal.

The designs are now doing battle to meet Singapore's air force requirement for up to 20 new strike aircraft, with the US company this time promoting the F-15T. Singapore earlier this year eliminated the four-nation Eurofighter Typhoon from the contest and is expected to announce a selection over the coming months.

The entry into service of the French air force's Rafale C/B late next year and the availability of a more capable software standard will serve to boost the type's international prospects. Potential buyers have already been shown the F2 standard aircraft's future capabilities using a modified F1 configuration, including multifunction operations and use of multiple aircraft sensors.

Flight demonstrations have now been conducted for over 10 nations - believed to include Greece, India, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea - and over 150 foreign pilots have flown the aircraft, including on solo sorties. However, campaigns in Australia and the United Arab Emirates also proved unsuccessful, with the Rafale respectively finishing behind Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its Block 60 F-16E/F Desert Falcon.

Saudi Arabia has stated an early interest in acquiring the Rafale, but Dassault says its current level of commitment falls well short of a formal platform selection.

Export business will prove vital if Dassault is to produce the Rafale at its optimum rate of around three aircraft per month.