France has finalized a landmark agreement with Dassault Aviation for the acquisition of 42 Rafale fighter jets, valued at over €5 billion (U.S. $5.5 billion), according to an announcement from the Armed Forces Ministry on Friday.
The contract, part of the fifth production phase, was formally conveyed to Dassault Aviation, alongside equipment suppliers Thales, Safran, and MBDA, by the French defence procurement agency.
The new Rafales, designed to the F4 production standard, will feature modernized operational capabilities, enhancing the country’s sovereignty and security, stated Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu.
The Rafale, a 4.5-generation fighter renowned for its stealth technology, supersonic speed without afterburners, and combat capabilities beyond visual range, has been a crucial asset for the French Navy and Air Force since its induction in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
With the latest order, France’s total Rafale count reaches an impressive 234 units, including a particular order in 2021 for 12 fighters to replace those transferred to Greece.
This significant deal also reinforces Dassault Aviation’s production line, ensuring activity for the next decade, with the company reporting orders for 60 Rafales in 2023.
This includes the 42 for France and 18 for Indonesia, reflecting a robust demand for this advanced fighter jet.
Export orders for the Rafale have soared to 261 aircraft, with notable international customers such as Egypt, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia.
Furthermore, Greece and Croatia have each acquired 12 secondhand Rafales from the French Air Force, highlighting the aircraft’s global appeal.
The newly ordered aircraft, intended for the Air and Space Force, will be one-seater versions built to the F4 production standard.
This standard, initiated in 2018, emphasizes connectivity and features upgrades such as the MBDA Mica medium-range air-to-air missile and an enhanced Spectra self-defence system from Thales.
Safran supplies the fighter’s M88 after burning the turbofan engine.
To future-proof the Rafale, the French Senate has urged Dassault Aviation to commence work on the F5 standard upgrades as early as 2024.
These upgrades, slated for the 2030s, could potentially include a loyal wingman UAV based on the European nEUROn combat drone program.
The decision to bolster the Rafale fleet comes against the backdrop of concerns raised by French lawmakers about the timeline and uncertainties surrounding the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The FCAS, a successor to the Rafale, isn’t expected to enter service before 2045 or 2050, prompting the Senate’s defence committee to advocate for a continued top-notch fighter to safeguard France’s airborne component of its nuclear deterrent until the FCAS becomes operational.
The Rafale deal, the first significant expenditure under France’s 2024-2030 military budget law, is anticipated to support over 7,000 jobs across more than 400 companies.
The announcement aligns with the nation’s strategic vision to maintain a robust and technologically advanced defence capability in an ever-evolving global security landscape.\
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