PARIS --- Dassault Aviation yesterday submitted its latest offer for the EuroDrone unmanned aircraft to Airbus Defense and Space, which in turn will submit it “within days” to OCCAR, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said July 23.
Industry, led by EuroDrone prime contractor Airbus, has been negotiating the future of the program for over a year, after governments found the initial offer too expensive. The program, formerly known as Euro MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance), intends to develop a European unmanned aircraft to provide an alternative to US models. It is a joint effort between France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and was launched with great fanfare at the 2015 Berlin Air Show.
Industry completed the program’s definition study a year ago, and negotiations currently focus on the cost of development and production, for which industry has requested about €10 billion, according to media reports, while governments are unwilling to spend much more than €7 billion. Time is running out if the original goal of a first flight in 2025 is to be met. Its service introduction is not now feasible until 2028, according to a July 22 report by the National Assembly on the preservation of the Defense Industrial Base.
Trappier’s comments were made during a press conference on the company’s first-half results. The company delivered 16 Falcon business jets during the first half, compared to 17 during the first half of 2019, and seven Rafale combat aircraft, down from 10 in the year-earlier period. More significantly, Dassault will only deliver 13 Rafales for the year, half as many as the 26 delivered in 2019.
This led the company to post sales of €2.6 billion for the first half, and an operating profit of €87 million, down from €286 million in H1 2019. Order intake fell from €2.9 billion in H1 2019 to €1 billion in H1 2020.
The seven Rafales were delivered to Qatar and India, and an additional six will be delivered during the second half of the year. Trappier declined to break down deliveries by country, but said the first batch of Rafales, already handed over to the Indian Air Force in France, will leave the company’s factory in Bordeaux on Monday to fly to India.
Dassault is not due to deliver any Rafales to France in 2020 and 2021, and from 2022 it will deliver the remaining 28 aircraft on order. Without new export orders, Dassault will then face another 30 months without deliveries to France between mid-2024 and 2027, according to the Defense Industrial Base report.
Three options are under consideration, the report adds: delivery of 11 aircraft per year from 2025; delivery of 18 aircraft in 2025 and 2026; and bringing forward from 2027 to 2024 the order for Tranche 5, which is to include 30 aircraft.
As part of the aerospace post-Covid support package that will be announced in September, the French Air Force could order an additional 20 Rafales and the French Navy an additional 10, according to the report.
“We are discussing a fifth tranche of Rafale, and there are several options on the table,” Trappier said, but declined further comment.