New purchase agreed: A total of 42 new Dassault Rafale jets
The purchase comes as French lawmakers express concern over a Franco-German project to develop a successor to the Rafale. The Future Combat Air system, as it is known, is not expected to enter service before 2045 or 2050, according to the French Senate's defense committee, writes Defense News.
France's defense procurement agency has notified Dassault Aviation as well as equipment suppliers Thales, Safran, and MBDA of the contract for the fifth phase of the aircraft's production, the ministry reported.
"This is excellent news for our sovereignty and security as well as for our armed forces, which will benefit from additional bursts with modernized operational capabilities," said Armed Forces Minister Sbastien Lecornu.
The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and the French Air Force in 2006, and has operated in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria. The latest contract brings the total number of Rafale jets ordered by France to 234, including a special order in 2021 for 12 fighters to replace aircraft transferred to Greece.
Export orders for the Rafale currently stand at 261 new aircraft, including Egypt, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia. In addition, Greece, and Croatia each bought 12 second-hand jet fighters from the French Air Force.
The planes are due to be upgraded to the F5 standard in the 2030s, according to the ministry. The Senate has called on Dassault Aviation to begin work on the upgrade — which could include a drone based on Europe's nEUROn combat drone program — as early as 2024 because of uncertainty over the Future Combat Air system. The FCAS could cost two to three times as much as the Rafale, while export would be subject to approval by the German partner, the senators said in a...