India, Indonesia: Should we change program paradigms Rafale to anticipate future success?

2021 will undoubtedly have been the year of consecration for Dassault Aviation, Safran, Thales, MBDA and the some 400 French companies forming the Team Rafale, with 146 firm orders for export or compensation for used devices. And 2022 could well be a good year too, with two major contracts in the pipeline, India for its Navy on the one hand, and to strengthen its air forces on the other hand in the face of the rise in Chinese and Pakistani power, and Indonesia which has now systematically integrated the Rafale in his presentations concerning the evolution of his air force. At the same time, France itself ordered aircraft to take over from its Mirage 2000 C, and today there are more than 100 new ones. Rafale which must be delivered by 2035 to the Air and Space Force.

However, this success is not without posing real industrial and operational challenges for France. In fact, the production line Rafale de Merignac can produce, according to Dassault Aviation, up to 3 new aircraft per month, or 36 aircraft per year. The orders taken in 2021, the planning of deliveries for the Air Force, and the more than serious prospects currently being negotiated, are already enough to saturate this industrial capacity over the next 10 years. If this situation is undoubtedly envied by a number of aircraft manufacturers around the world, it is not without creating real handicaps, since there is no longer any industrial room for maneuver to respond to new orders, which acts of national orders, export or even compensation for the sale of second-hand devices, yet an extremely promising market for the Rafale. Can we, in this context, imagine new paradigms for the Program? Rafale, so as to take advantage of the current dynamic in the short, medium and long term, while meeting the obvious needs to increase the mass of the French air forces?

Rafale greece 1 Defense Analysis | Fighter aircraft | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts
It took just one year between the signing of the Greek contract and the arrival of the first 6 Rafale in Greece, a determining factor in the success of this contract

Before committing to the presentation of an optimized alternative solution, it is appropriate to pose a few postulates explaining the present situation. Today, in fact, the program Rafale is, so to speak, controlled on sight by the French authorities, and has been for almost fifteen years. Where France was initially to order 320 aircraft delivered over a dozen years in order to form the industrial pillar on which Dassault Aviation could envisage building its export strategy, it piloted the program "at a minimum", i.e. to say by placing short-term orders essential to keep the production line in activity, i.e. 11 devices per year, all while lowering the targeted volume of devices to 225, and spreading these deliveries over around twenty years. This led to a significant increase in the production costs of the device, which constituted a handicap during international competitions.

The orders of 2015 (Egypt and Qatar) and 2016 (India), allowed France to suspend its own acquisitions, so as to preserve its meager defense credits for certain other priority programs, the acquisition commitment of 11 Rafale per year respected by France having seriously undermined the ambitions of other programs, such as FREMM for example. Since then, the governing paradigm around this program has been to prioritize export orders over national orders, both to meet customer expectations regarding rapid deliveries, and to allow the financing of other equally urgent programs in the armies. And the 2021 orders are no exception, since the deliveries expected by the UAE, Egypt, Croatia and Greece are all spread over the next 7 years, leaving very little industrial margin to integrate new products. other “urgent” orders from export customers as well as from national armies.

Rafale e Mirage 2000 D foto Air Force Analyzes Defense | Fighter aircraft | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts
The format of the French air forces defined by the 2013 White Paper only provides for 225 combat aircraft Rafale by 2030, a number now considered too small in the face of the hardening of international relations

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