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Everyone likes to have something juicy to put on the front page of their show daily, so what's better than when an announcement everyone thought might be made at the Dubai air show is turned on its head?Instead of announcing that they were ready to sign a contract for up to 60 Rafales with France's Dassault Aviation, the United Arab Emirates has issued the Eurofighter consortium a request for proposals after an Oct. 17 U.K. briefing requested by the UAE.This seems a little strange, given that the UAE is looking for a multi-role aircraft and that, today at least, the Eurofighter's air-to-ground capacities are more than limited: a 1,000-lb. free-fall bomb, a Paveway 2 laser-guided 1,000-lb. bomb, and an E-Paveway 2 dual-mode (GPS/laser) 1,000-lb. bomb and this only on the British variant of the aircraft.The announcement came as a "surprise," British officials tell Aviation Week, but they seem optimistic that the aircraft has a good chance because of the industrial benefits that could be provided to the UAE. Presumably like the industrial benefits that Saudi Arabia was supposed to benefit from . . .The officials also say that in a year's time the Eurofighter will have the air-to-surface capabilities it is now lacking. True. But this capacity is not combat-proven. The Rafale's are. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet, who was at the opening day of the show today, says: "Everyone is playing the role they're meant to," adding that "we are in the final stages of very advanced negotiations" and that he remained optimistic that a contract would be signed before the end of this year. And UAE officials? They are saying nothing. But it seems clear that this is a ploy to bring the price down. It seems far-fetched to let negotiations get to within a hair's-breadth of signature after three years of discussion and then decide that "let's have a competition after all." And before you ask: I'm not pro-one aircraft and anti-another. It's just that the move doesn't seem to make any sense and the issues I've noted down here just jump out at you.Meanwhile, both aircraft were performing demonstration flights. Here's a just-about focused one of the Rafale I managed to shoot. I'll try and get an in-focus one of the Eurofighter tomorrow!
ar99, dubai11, Rafale, Eurofighter, UAE
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