France is making every effort to give its Rafale fighter every opportunity. After the French government already promised an economic return of 4 billion, it is now talking of even 20 billion. But according to Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput (N-VA), this is mainly proof that the lobbying machine is running at full speed.
Vandeput cannot understand the increase in France’s promised return on investment. “The French offer is too good to be true. The lobbying is running at full speed, that is now clear, but we have opted for a straightforward and objective process through the RfGP. It truly is a pity that France is taking a different route. The claims that their offer did not fit within our process are simply incorrect. The criteria are clear. Period.”
The federal government has not set up the way in which France is putting pressure on the Belgian media, including an Opinion piece contributed by the French Minister of Defense. France did not reply via the established procedure of the Belgian government for the replacement of the F-16s. For the F-35 and the Eurofighter, the American and British governments responded with a bulky file. France sent a letter consisting of 3 A4-sized pages, in which it mentioned a collaboration around a new European fighter plane, together with Germany.
Since then, nothing much has moved on the French side, according to the opinions voiced within the government and the Defense establishment. "French bid is a hollow bid. They do not have timeline, no program, no answers," is what top military officials are saying off the record.
According to De Tijd, France could now compensate the full purchase amount. As to why France replied outside the Belgian procedure, it now says that, otherwise, it would not be possible to offer 100% economic compensation. However, this raises the question of why there was first talk of 4 billion euros and that now suddenly increases fivefold to 20 billion euros. “It's all about a desperate attempt from the sidelines,” can be heard in the government.
Nevertheless, the federal team has not been speaking with the same voice in the past few months. Prime Minister Charles Michel (MR) has a good relation with French President Emmanuel Macron and feels little about sending people out on cold walks.
Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput (N-VA) sees no solution to the replacement of the F-16 in the French proposal. It is best to talk about a collaboration for a new aircraft, but not for the deadline of 2023, when the first F-16s are taken out of circulation, because it will be unachievable.
Click here for our Dec. 14 story on the subject, which explains how European trade rules severely limit how offsets can be awarded during competitive tenders, and details the offsets offered by the candidates.)