Le Rafale will it be the heir of the Mirage III for the future of the French aeronautical industry?

Fast, agile, powerful and well armed, the ancestor of Rafale, the Mirage III is undoubtedly a legend of military fighter aviation in the world. In the hands of Israeli pilots, Dassault Aviation's single-engine delta-wing fighter won against Arab MiGs and Hunters during the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars.

He played a decisive role in the victory of the Jewish State during these two conflicts, adorning the aircraft with an aura of efficiency and performance that built its export success with 1400 aircraft built (Mirage III and V ), and which imposed Dassault Aviation fighters on the international market for several decades.

The Mirage III/V was thus exported to 13 countries, its successor the Mirage F1 to 10 countries, and the Mirage 2000 to 8 countries. Each of these aircraft retained the key strengths of the Mirage III, namely high performance for a compact and economical aircraft to purchase and implement compared to the majority of American aircraft, such as the F-100 Super Saber and the F-104 Starfighter for the Mirage III, to F-4 Phantom II for the Mirage F1.

The Mirage 2000 was confronted with the Tornado, F-15 and F-18 for the 2000, even if the latter two suffered from the arrival of the American F-16 Falcon, precisely designed as a light and economical fighter like the French hunters, and not in the traditional Anglo-Saxon trend.

With Rafale, Dassault Aviation took a significant risk, by targeting not its preferred field, high-performance single-engine fighters, but a versatile twin-engine fighter, a field in which the Americans and British had established themselves in the West for several decades, with the F- 4 Phantom then the F-14, F-15, Tornado and the F-18, and as they developed new models of this type with the Typhoon from the Eurofighter consortium, the F-22 from Lockheed-Martin and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet from Boeing.

After nearly two decades of lean times marked by resounding export failures against the F-16 (Morocco), the F-35 (Netherlands, Denmark) and even the Swedish Gripen (Brazil), the Rafale finally managed to convince its first three export customers in 2015, Egypt for 24 aircraft, Qatar for 24 aircraft (+12 options exercised in 2017), and India with 36 aircraft.

But the real consecration for the Rafale came in 2021, when Greece (18+ 6 devices), Croatia (12 aircraft), Egypt (30 aircraft) et the United Arab Emirates (80 aircraft) announced their orders, followed in 2022 by Indonesia (42 aircraft), making the French fighter the greatest export success of its generation, far surpassing the Typhoon, Super Hornet, Eagle II and Su-35, and transforming what was long perceived, even in France, as a costly failure, into a real international success.

Other countries are in negotiations with Dassault Aviation for new orders, even if the French manufacturer has learned from these failures, and remains particularly discreet on the subject.

F100 Mirage III Fighter aircraft | Defense Analysis | Military aircraft construction
The Mirage III forged the image and success of the French defense aeronautics industry for several decades

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