French budget plan applies brakes to Rafale, A400M deliveries

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Deliveries of the Dassault Rafale fighter, Airbus Military A400M transport and A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) to France could be slowed significantly over the next six years, if the nation's newly proposed military planning law is adopted.

Outlined by defence minister Jean Yves Le-Drian on 2 August, the suggested spending plan for 2014-19 would slow deliveries of the Rafale to a combined 26 aircraft for the French air force and navy. While a significant reduction from the 11 examples currently being produced per annum, the fall could be accommodated if potential export sales are finalised. A Dassault-led team is still negotiating the terms for a planned 126-unit order for India, with the type also on offer to nations including Brazil, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

 

French air force

If the domestic build rate is reduced as suggested, France would have received 152 of the 180 Rafales ordered so far by the end of 2019.

The draft document says 15 A400Ms would be handed over to the French air force within the same period, including only two of a planned three this year. The slower-than-expected rate of introduction for the new type would be partly managed by upgrading the service's current 14 Lockheed Martin C-130H transports. A programme to acquire 12 A330 MRTTs would be launched in 2014, the defence ministry says, but only two would be in use by the end of 2019.

 

Airbus Military

Eurocopter would deliver 42 NH Industries NH90s and 16 HAD-standard Tiger attack helicopters, and upgrade earlier HAP-configuration examples of the latter. Twelve General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Reaper unmanned air vehicles would also be introduced, with the first potentially to be delivered in late 2013, with 14 tactical UAVs also to be bought. Paris will, meanwhile, continue to give priority to an Anglo-French project to design an operational unmanned combat air system for longer-term use.

Upgrades would be performed on six Dassault Mirage 2000D strike aircraft and four ATL-2 Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft, with the latter to be the first examples from a planned 15-aircraft project that would extend operations of the type until beyond 2030.

Guided weapons purchases would include 532 Sagem AASM air-to-surface missiles and 250 cruise missiles, the plan says, with development and qualification work on the Anglo-French FASGW/ANL anti-ship missile to be completed by MBDA. However, production of the latter system would not start until France's next planning law period.

Worth €190 billion ($254 billion), the proposed six-year spending package will be examined by French parliamentarians following the summer recess, with a final version to be adopted before 31 December.