Following up on the Rafale news...
The French defense ministry has “clarified” its boss's words and said there is no possibility that France would cancel the Rafale program.
The firm order for 180 aircraft was signed in 2009 and the target in the 2008 Defense White Paper is for 286 aircraft. Gen. Philippe Pontiès, the defense ministry spokesman, said at the weekly press briefing this morning that this meant “the French Rafale program is here for quite a time, even a very long time.”
He said the program would continue until “beyond 2020” and that given the “modernization and progressive updates of the platform, Dassault's activities linked to the French Rafale program will last until 2030.”
Longuet's comments in an interview on the National Assembly's TV station LCP could be misconstrued. One of the journalists asked, “Once we have bought all the aircraft we need, will the production be stopped?” This is when Longuet said: “If Dassault does not sell the aircraft abroad, then, indeed, the production line will be stopped but the aircraft naturally will be maintained.” So, only after French needs have been met.
Longuet specified that the Rafale “is an excellent aircraft ... its strength is that it is totally omnirole.” He conceded that its weakness was that it is more expensive than the “American plane whose costs are spread over much greater numbers. When we order 200 Rafales over a 10- or 15-year period, the Americans make 3,000 aircraft.”
He said contacts with India and the United Arab Emirates “who are negotiating hard” were “extremely advanced.”