Dubai 09: France increases Rafale order

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French defence minister Hervé Morin has approved a contract to acquire a further 60 Dassault Rafale fighters for the French air force and French navy.

The deal, approved on 12 November, will take to 180 the number of Rafales ordered by Paris so far through four production contracts.

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The defence ministry confirms that its fourth tranche of Rafales will be equipped with Thales RBE2 active electronically scanned array radars, but says the delivery schedule for the aircraft will depend on potential success in the export market.

The Rafale is in the final stages of competitions in Brazil and Switzerland, and is also reported to be in line to secure an order from the United Arab Emirates.

France's DGA procurement agency will be responsible for implementing the contract before year-end with Rafale partner companies Dassault, Snecma and Thales, and with major subcontractors including weapons supplier MBDA.

Paris intends to eventually acquire 294 Rafales - 234 for its air force and 60 for its navy.

The French navy put its first Rafale F1 fighters into service in 2004, and an F2-standard aircraft entered air force use in 2006. Dassault is building so-called "omnirole" F3-configuration aircraft at a rate of 12 a year for the services.