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“Blocked from F-35, Saudi Arabia Contemplates Acquisition of 100-200 Rafale Fighter Jets”

Despite having long been regarded as a close ally and a significant supporter to Saudi Arabia, the United States is hesitant to provide its fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to Riyadh, driven by its determination to preserve Israel's military dominance in the region, a stance that is further compounded by Israel's own reservations.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) – Saudi Arabia is reportedly exploring the possibility of procuring between 100 and 200 Rafale fighter jets from the French aerospace firm Dassault Aviation, following the denial of its request to acquire the F-35 due to Washington’s steadfast commitment to uphold Israel’s military superiority in the Middle East.

For years, the Saudi Air Force has been strengthened by American-made fighter jets like the F-15 and European ones like the Eurofighter Typhoon, but now it feels the need to look to France for future fighter aircraft supplies.

Earlier this month, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman received a visit from his French counterpart, Sebastien Lecornu, in Riyadh to hold discussions on bilateral defense cooperation.

According to Saudi media reports, the discussions between the two Defense Ministers also touched on Saudi Arabia’s desire to acquire Rafale fighter jets.

“It also touched on Saudi Arabia’s ‘conditions’ before giving the green light for the acquisition of a large quantity of Rafale fighter jets,” said a Middle East defense analyst.

The Saudi Defense Minister is also expected to make a working visit to Paris to follow up on the discussions in Riyadh.

Rafale
Rafale

 

Riyadh now views Washington and Europe as “more pressuring” than helpful partners and has also begun to improve relations with China.

Riyadh is said to be carefully considering the option of acquiring the Rafale fighter jets because it is attracted to France’s defense policy that is “independent” and not tied to other issues such as human rights records, politics, and so on.

France’s independent and non-binding defense policy has caught Saudi Arabia’s attention and brought it closer to the Rafale fighter jets.

Not only is Saudi Arabia “interested” in France’s independent defense policy, but neighboring countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Qatar have also made the Rafale fighter jet their main fighter aircraft.

The UAE acquired 80 Rafale fighter jets in 2021, Egypt acquired 54 Rafale fighter jets made by Dassault Aviation, and Qatar acquired 36 of these fighter jets as early as 2015.

Despite having long been regarded as a close ally and a significant supporter in the Middle East, the United States is hesitant to provide access to its fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets, driven by its determination to preserve Israel’s military dominance in the region, a stance that is further compounded by Israel’s own reservations.

Rafale
French and Saudi Foreign Minister in a meeting in Riyadh recently.

 

Previous reports stated that Saudi Arabia was offered ownership of the F-35 by President Donald Trump if it agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, but when Trump lost and Biden took over the administration, the proposal was “frozen” by the Democratic Party leader.

As known, Riyadh does want to modernize its air force with fifth-generation fighter jets, with the F-35 seen as the only choice for the wealthy Arab country.

In the current market, only the F-35 is available as an option for fans of fifth-generation fighter jets, as China does not export its “Mighty Dragon” J-20 aircraft, and the Su-57 “Felon” aircraft is still classified as being in the development stage.

Unable to acquire the F-35, Saudi Arabia is now looking to the Rafale, with the latest variant of the fighter jet known as the “Super Rafale” expected to catch its attention.

Starting from next year until 2030, France will begin developing a more advanced variant of the Rafale fighter jet, in which it and the fighter jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation hope to “outperform” the American-made F-35 fighter jet.

Arab Saudi
F-15 belonging to Saudi Arabia 

 

Called Rafale F5 or “Super Rafale,” France hopes that the latest variant of its flagship fighter jet can “regain” the export market that it has often lost, especially to the F-35 fighter jet developed by Lockheed Martin.

The “Super Rafale” aircraft will be redesigned to operate in tandem with several loyal wingman drones called “nEUROn,” which are controlled by the latest variant of the fighter jet pilots.

According to the French defense website “Meta Defense,” the Super Rafale, or Rafale F5, will be developed to a high level.

“It (Super Rafale) will be an Air Combat System based on a system within a system and not just a fighter aircraft, as the current Rafale F4 variant is.” — DSA

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