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France Spends US$5.5 Billion for 42 Rafales Amid Concerns on FCAS Program

French lawmakers are reported to have expressed concerns about the progress of the Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) program, a collaborative effort between France and Germany designed to replace the Rafale fighter jets, which led to Paris placing an order for 42 Rafale aircraft, amounting to US$5.5 billion (RM24.75 billion).

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — Concerns regarding the progress of the 6th generation fighter aircraft development program, known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), have led France to approve a budget of US$5.5 billion (RM24.75 billion) to acquire 42 Rafale fighter jets.

The Rafale fighter aircraft is manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

Previously, French representatives had expressed apprehensions about the FCAS program, a joint initiative between France and Germany aimed at replacing the Rafale fighter jets.

The 6th generation FCAS is expected to achieve its first flight only after 2045 or 2050, according to the French Senate Defense Committee.

In response to the “concerns” surrounding the FCAS, the French defense acquisition agency has informed Dassault Aviation and other component manufacturers such as Safran, Thales, and MBDA about the latest order for 42 Rafale fighter jets.

“This is excellent news for the sovereignty and security of the country as it will provide benefits and further modernize operational capabilities,” stated French Minister of Defense Sebastien Lecornu in a released statement.

Rafale
Rafale

 

All 42 newly ordered Rafale fighter jets for the French Air Force are of the F4 variant but will be upgraded to the F5 or “Super Rafale” variant with some 6th generation capabilities by the 2030s.

The development of the “Super Rafale” variant is expected to commence this year and continue until 2030, with France and Dassault Aviation aiming for the latest variant to “outperform” the U.S.-made F-35.

France hopes that the latest variant of its flagship fighter aircraft can “recapture” export markets, especially against the F-35 developed by Lockheed Martin, which has often outperformed the Rafale in competitions for fighter aircraft contracts in several European countries, despite occasional victories in the Middle East and Asia, such as in Indonesia.

Several losses in Europe have prompted the French company to develop the “Super Rafale” variant to challenge the dominance of the F-35.

The “Super Rafale” will be designed to operate in tandem with several loyal wingman drones called “nEUROn,” which will be autonomously controlled despite being escorted by pilots of the latest Rafale fighter jet.

NGAD
Future Combat Air System (FCAS) by France and Germany

 

The “Super Rafale” will also be designed to carry new guided munitions resulting from the collaboration between France and Britain, namely the Future Cruise Missile (FCM) and Future Anti-Ship Missile (FASM).

It will no longer use the SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missile and AM39 Exocet.

The Rafale fighter entered service with the French Air Force and Navy between 2004 and 2006 and has been deployed in various military operations, including in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria.

The latest order from the French government for 42 Rafale fighter jets brings the total orders for the aircraft from the French Air Force to 234 at present.

This includes an order for 12 Rafale jets in 2021 to replace those transferred to Greece.

In addition to orders for the French Air Force, Dassault Aviation has received orders for 261 Rafale fighter jets from various countries, including Indonesia, India, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). — DSA

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