Like its main European competitor, the Eurofighter EF2000, the Rafale has been adversely affected by continuing defence cuts. Despite protests, the air force is unlikely to receive its first aircraft before 2004-5 according to the Government's revised procurement plan. The naval procurement has also been delayed, with the first squadron of aircraft expected to enter service in 2002.
The single-seat Rafale C and two-seat Rafale B will be built to meet the French air force requirement for a Dassault Mirage III, Mirage VF, Mirage F1 and Jaguar replacement. The Rafale M is a single-seat carrier aircraft to meet the French navy requirement. This model will supersede Vought F-8E (FN) Crusaders and Dassault Etendard IVs.
The French air force is expected to buy 250 Rafale C/B and the French navy 86 Ms. The Rafale is a 10t-class (empty weight) aircraft.
Dassault's Mirage 2000 has emerged as a late entrant to meet the future fighter requirements of some former Warsaw Pact nations. The company is also offering a comprehensive arms package including the active-radar-guided variant of the Mica AAM. It is also continuing to convert French air force Mirage 2000C to the Mirage 2000-5 standard. Deliveries of the first of 60 Mirage 2000-5s to Taiwan began earlier this year. Dassault has also pursued markets in both the Middle East and in Asia. The UAE had been considering additional Mirage 2000-5s for its strike-fighter requirement, but appears to have dropped this aircraft as an option. Pakistan is also interested in the aircraft as an alternative to the purchase of additional Lockheed Martin F-16s, the sale of which has been blocked by the US Government.
Although production of the F1 ended in 1989, the aircraft continues to attract overseas attention. Morocco is refurbishing its F1s, with Dassault understood to be implementing the work.
The South African Air Force had also shown interest in upgrading its F1 and two aircraft have been fitted with Klimov RD-33 engines.
The Super Etendard is approaching the end of a prolonged service life, but continues to be upgraded in the interim before being replaced by the Rafale M. A Thomson-CSF modular self-protection system is being fitted to the aircraft, including a Barem radar-jammer pod and a Sherloc radar-warning receiver. The French navy has cut its nuclear-capable Etendard squadrons from two to one. The aircraft carries the Aerospatiale ASMP stand-off nuclear missile.
Dassault's attempts to persuade the RAF to procure a derivative of the Atlantique 2 proved to be unsuccessful, with the RAF opting instead for a Nimrod upgrade. Germany has also delayed plans to replace its Atlantic Is, and instead will upgrade them to extend their life into the first decade of the next century.
The first of the French navy's Atlantique 2s entered service in October 1989, with a total of up to 28 aircraft to be delivered by 1996. The first two prototype Atlantiques were converted from the Atlantic and flew in May 1981. The ATL.2's mission system includes the Thomson-CSF Iguane search radar, Sadang acoustic processing suite, Arar ESM and a Tango FLIR sensor in a chin-mounted turret.
This aircraft is a maritime-surveillance variant of the Dassault Falcon 200 business jet. In this role, the aircraft is equipped with the Thomson-CSF Varan radar. The French navy has ordered five "maritime-surveillance" Falcon 50s and has Guardians.