“If this order materializes, it will be good news for the 500 French companies which work on the Rafale program. It is very well advanced," she told BFM TV, confirming an earlier report posted on the La Tribune financial website.
Indonesia has been shopping for a new fighter for some time, and had previously been reported to have signed deals for Russian Su-35S and F-16V Vipers, but neither was finalized. Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto in October spent over two weeks meeting prospective suppliers in the U.S., Austria, France and Turkey, Nikkei Asian Review reported reported Nov. 12.
Subianto met with Parly on October 21, and again confirmed his keen interest in the Rafale, La Tribune reported Dec. 3, adding that its sources said “the Indonesians want to move very quickly and would even like an agreement before the end of the year, while French negotiators want to take a little more time to complete a meticulous agreement.” Parly and Subianto spoke again by telephone on November 26, according to her official agenda.
The two ministers had already had at the beginning of the year (January 13) an exchange described at the time as “fruitful,” La Tribune reported, during which Subianto expressed an interest for 48 Rafales, up to four Scorpene submarines and two Gowind corvettes. Today, Indonesia has reduced its plans, and is considering the purchase of five submarines on the naval side.
Other potential deals for Rafales
“We are in talks with many countries” for Rafale, Parly told BFM TV, adding that “Greece, Finland and Switzerland want to renew their combat aviation, and have issued bid requests that should be finalized next year.”
Greece didn’t open a competition, but Prime Minister Kyriákos Mitsotakis announced in September that he had negotiated a direct deal for 12 used and six new Rafales, for which a contract is due to be signed by the end of the year if the Greek Parliament approves the necessary funding before the Christmas recess.
La Grèce a annoncé son souhait d’acquérir 18 Rafale. Une excellente nouvelle pour l’industrie aéronautique française et une première : un pays européen veut se doter d’avions de combat Rafale. Le résultat d’une politique d’exportation que je mène avec conviction depuis 2017.— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) September 12, 2020
France has also offered Croatia 12 second-hand Rafales, which are competing with new-build Lockheed F-16 Block 70s, new Saab Gripen C/Ds and used Israeli F-16 Block 30 jets. The winner is due to be announced on Dec. 12.
Parly met with her Croatian colleague Mario Banožić in Zagreb on Nov. 23 to discuss defense cooperation issues, and later also met with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.
“This is my second visit to the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia. I would like to emphasise that the France and Croatia have a successful bilateral co-operation, especially of the navies, the armies the air forces. France wants to develop co-operation with Croatia in many domains, particularly in defence and security. We also want to strengthen the partnership of the defence industries for the benefit of both countries,” Parly said, according to the Croatian MoD report on the meeting.
France is also supporting Dassault’s Rafale bids in the Finnish H-X and Swiss Air2030 fighter competitions, but these will not be decided until mid-2021 and first quarter of 2021 respectively.
Recent signs also indicate that Egypt may be ready to resume defense procurement from France, which it informally suspended after French President Emmanuel Macron publicly criticized the country’s dismal human rights record. Egypt was expected to order a second batch of Rafales, in addition to the 24 it has already purchased and received, and this could now be resumed.
Parly’s official agenda noted a Nov. 30 telephone conversation with Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Zaki, the Egyptian minister of defense and of military production, and while the subject was not specified Rafale is one of the obvious subjects.
Additional French orders in pipeline
These export orders, if signed, will solve Dassault’s production shortfall for Rafale, and allow the French government to defer the order for the fifth and final batch of 30 Rafales to after 2025.
Production on current orders were due to run out in 2024, but France will have to order 12 additional Rafales to replace the 12 it is selling Greece from its in-service inventory, and the six new-build aircraft also sold to Greece will extend production until 2025-2026.
“We must imagine and weigh all sorts of scenarios allowing delivery to the different customers while meeting the requirements of the French Air Force,” Parly told BFM TV, “but obviously the French Air Force will remain the priority.”
“My responsibility, my duty is obviously to ensure that the Air Force has the capabilities it requires, and we will respect the milestones as set out in the 2019-2025 military program law, which call for additional Rafales for the Air Force,” she added.
At the current production rate of 22 aircraft per year, the Greek and Indonesian orders would ensure sufficient workload for another three years beyond 2024 without requiring an increase in the production rate.