PARIS --- The French Ministry of Defence on Dec. 31, 2009 awarded Dassault Aviation a multi-billion euro, multi-year production contract to deliver 60 Rafale F3 combat aircraft. These aircraft will be delivered beginning in 2015 with the new active antenna radar and enhanced self-protection suite.
This latest order, approved by the defense ministry’s Ministerial Committee on Investments on Nov. 12, covers 50 aircraft for the French air force and 10 for the French navy. It also includes an option to upgrade a number of French navy Rafale F1s to the latest F3 standard, as well as spare parts, support equipment and related services.
This order brings the total number of Rafales ordered by France to 180, out of a planned total of 286 aircraft: 228 for the air force and 58 for the navy. However, the French MoD retains the option to order 9 additional aircraft so as to return the program to the nominal number of 295 aircraft.
Related contracts have also been awarded to Snecma for the aircraft’s M-88 engines and to MBDA for its weapons.
A spokesman for DGA, the French defense ministry’s directorate-general of armaments, confirmed that the order was awarded on Dec. 31, 2009 but declined to state its value. Dassault Aviation declined to comment.
Deliveries on this order, known as Commande Globale n° 4 (Global Order n° 4) and authorized under the 2009 budget, are scheduled to begin in 2015, according to Parliamentary reports, at an average rate of 10.5 aircraft per year. This leaves some flexibility for Dassault to increase the production rate in the event that one of the anticipated export orders materializes.
As of the end of 2009, Dassault had delivered 82 Rafales (54 for the air force and 28 for the navy), of which three have been lost in accidents. Deliveries in 2010 are due to total 11 aircraft (8 for the air force, 3 for the navy), and will bring the total number of Rafales delivered by end 2010 to 93.
In parallel, the French air force is gradually introducing the latest F3 standard aircraft, which will be capable of all planned missions and which will carry additional weapons including the AM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile and the Reco NG reconnaissance pod. The F3 version was qualified by the air force in July 2008, and will equip the 7th Fighter Wing’s first operational squadron at Saint Dizier air base by mid-2010.