SAINT CLOUD, France --- Dassault Aviation and Airbus are working together to define a next-generation combat aircraft as directed by the French and German governments, and are not affected by other European initiatives, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said here on Thursday.
While he welcomed the British government’s Tempest project to develop a next-generation fighter of its own -- announced July 16 at the Farnborough airshow -- as a sign that “European nations are showing new interest in combat aircraft,” he said it also showed that the British “are not satisfied with the [Lockheed Martin] F-35” since they have to develop a third fighter alongside the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Trappier also clarified the responsibilities in the French-German future combat air system, known as SCAF by its French acronym (Système de Combat Aérien Futur).
Dassault Aviation will lead the development of the future combat aircraft, as agreed by the French and German defense ministries and implemented by the agreement signed with Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke at the Berlin airshow in April.
“We now have to establish the road map, which will begin with studies” of different capabilities and components; “our goal is to obtain the launch of a demonstrator.” Airbus and Dassault agree that the program could be opened to other partners once it’s on a firm foundation, but “that is for the governments to decide, not for me to say.”
Airbus, on the other hand, will lead the European MALE unmanned aircraft program, launched by France, Germany and Italy, as well as the “system of systems” that will operate both the new fighter and the new MALE drone.
OCCAR, the European armaments cooperation agency, which is managing the MALE drone program on behalf of the three governments, to issue an Invitation To Tender for the autumn, to which the companies will respond with their offer, and hope that a contract will follow next year.
Also during the first half, the British government officially pulled out of the Franco-British Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, for which BAE Systems and Dassault were conducting a feasibility study because it could not afford its half-share of 500 million euros.
First-half financial results
Trappier was speaking at a press conference to announce Dassault Aviation’s first-half results, which saw adjusted net income increase by 20 million euros despite a decline of 359 million euros in first-half sales because of lower deliveries of Rafale combat aircraft (two) and Falcon bizjets (15).
Order intake more than doubled, from 1,415 million euros in the first half of 2017 to 2,807 million euros in the six months to June 30, mostly due to Qatar’s down payment of 1,200 million euros on its second batch of 12 Rafales.
In addition to the two Rafales delivered to France during the first half, Dassault will deliver a third one during the second half, which will bring the total number delivered to the French Air Force and Navy to 152, out of 180 ordered to date.
There will be no deliveries to France for the next three years (2019-2021), but they will resume in 2022 for the remaining 28 aircraft, at a rate to be determined.
Dassault has also delivered the ninth upgraded Rafale M to the French Navy, with the tenth to follow during the second half, when the company also expects to deliver the improved F3-R software standard.
The award of the contract for the F4 standard is expected before the end of the year.
France expects to order 30 additional Rafales, possibly in 2023 and for delivery before 2030, and will also eventually replace the fleet of four Falcon 50 MARSUR maritime patrol aircraft.
In the near term, the number of Atlantique ATL2 being upgraded has been increased from 15 to 18, and Dassault is waiting for the contract award for four new electronic warfare aircraft, based on a Falcon airframe, to replace the French Air Force’s Transall Gabriel.
On the export market, Trappier said Dassault is talking to the United Arab Emirates, who have announced they will upgrade their fleet of Mirage 2000-9s, but the company no longer expects to sign a new Rafale export contract this year, unless Egypt finally decides to take up its option on 12 additional Rafales.
To date, Egypt has already taken delivery of 14 aircraft from its original order for 24.
Click here for the Dassault Aviation first-half financial release (14 PDF pages).
Click here for the related briefing slides (27 PDF pages).