After a long decade of uncertainty, the year 2015 has brought forward a sudden and repeated favourable sales outcome for Dassault Aviation and its iconic Rafale fighter plane. In a mere two months, sixty Rafales have been firmly sold on the export market. First to Egypt with 24 aircraft last February, and this April to India, this country acquiring 36 Rafales in a thunderbolt deal intended to fulfil an Indian Air Force urgent operational requirement. While further Rafale sales to India are still expected along the lines of a trade agreement that should see the aircraft produced by Hindustan Aircraft Limited under a technology transfer license by the start of the next decade, the sun is definitely rising on France’s commanding “omni-role” fighter plane.
If much of this success is linked with the fact that the Rafale is today a battle proven aircraft with outstanding combat capabilities — both in the French Air Force and France’s Aéronavale services —, needless to say that there always exists a « man in the loop » when dealing with such a far-reaching subject than selling to foreign countries first line and hi-tech critical weapons. The man in the loop is in fact a tandem, one made by French president François Hollande and his close councelor Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s hard working minister of Defence. The men’s relentless and wary team endeavour to sell the Rafale on the export market has finally paid off, providing in the process much welcome oxygen to France’s high valued defence industry.
To date, the combined purchases of France, Egypt and India mean that the 200 Rafale production mark is looming in the distance for the omnirole and potent fighter plane. France’s latest procurement law having reduced the number of Rafales which should in the end equip the French Air Force and the French Navy (225 in total instead of the 320 aircraft expected initially back in 1992), a grand total of 275 Rafales has now been ordered, including export. A very positive result for Dassault Aviation and a true victory for the French industry with Thales, Safran and MBDA in the wake.