Monday, June 27, 2011

MMRCA, IAF chief states the selection process was transparent and fair



“Right in the beginning when this deal was going through, I had said that whoever we select, the others would always be dissatisfied. So I think it is a case of that..
As far as the entire process of the MMRCA selection is concerned I think it is one of the finest things the Air Force has ever done. 

There was no security breach, a very fair treatment was given to everybody, every vendor briefed as per RFP and in fact the process has gone so well and so timely that I would like to patent that process..After all these were six of the best aircraft in the world...very little difference in all these, very difficult to decide which is the best, ultimately what suits our country - the best has to emerge as the best. That doesn't mean the other aircraft are bad,.
The process was very elaborate. As you are aware each aircraft had 600 testing points. So the whole thing went through in a very professional manner and I must compliment the team that undertook this task - very well done,”

Eurofighter very touchy after Rafale team claims superiority

It seems that the trench war has begun between the Eurofigter and Rafale teams. The Eurofighter web site is trying to discard the Dassault and Thales claims stating that the European consortium was a "cooperation of incompetencies" and that the Selex AESA radar was 5 years behind the RBE-2 AESA :

"With Thales claiming to be five years more advanced in AESA radar technology than its competitors with its future Rafale radar and with Dassault claiming that the Eurofighter programme is an example of incompetencies, the French look to be on the defensive."

Well, reading this I would rather say that the Rafale team is on the offensive. Anyway, if it is true that Dassault's claim is rather crual, there is nevertheless some truth in it. Indeed, it is a known fact that the Eurofighter project has been delayed by serious technical issues due to the fact that each company involved wanted workshare on technologies they did not master. As a result, the program is very late and more expensive than the Rafale despite a much larger development team and a higher production rate.

As for the Thales statement, The first RBE-2 production radar has been delivered in 2010 and the first production Captor-E is now expected in 2014 if there is no delay. So that's, at minimum, a 4 years gap (may be not technology wise but at least in term of availability for the export market). Ok, that's not 5 years, but not far from it nevertheless. In fact the Eurofighter team is now in a hurry to field this new radar in order to keep the gap with the RBE-2 as small as possible because any delay will be seen a major setback by export customers. 

The next paragraph is an attempt to boast about the Eurofighter ecomical achievement while in fact the figures tell  more about how slow and inefficient the program has been compared to the Rafale :

"For a programme like Eurofighter which has a huge economic impact in the four partner nations with 100,000 long-term jobs secured, 400 large, medium and small companies participating in the programme, 280 aircraft delivered (just six less than the total number of Rafale planned - but not ordered yet – and to be produced in total!) from a planned 707, six air force customers included two export nations, in-service in 16 units across Europe, Asia and South America, 120,000 flying hours flown, and total operational and combat proven as multi-role platform, these claims by the French look to be more a sign of weakness than of strength"
The "280 aircrafts delivered" statement is interesting because that's in fact a weakness when you consider that there are 4 assembly lines. So, that's an average of 70 planes per assembly line which is 30% less than the Rafale assembly line that has produced more than 100 aircrafts.
Then there is the wild assumption that 707 eurofighters will be ordered and produced. The reality is less shinny when all the partners nations are reducing their orders or using some of their batch as a reserve for export customers.
I will not come back on the boasting about the Eurofighter chassing sea gulls in the Falklands (South america units), nor will I smile to the "combat proven and total operational multirole platform" claim which seems a bit exaggerated for a plane that has merely demonstrated timid LGB strike capabilities. So much Eurofigters (remember, 280) in service but so few actual operational usefulness (what about stand off strike, Sead and recce capabilities ?) ... 
Eventually, such a limited achievement can only be considered as a disappointment for a workforce that large (remember, 100,000 jobs, 400 companies).

The last sentence is precious :
"So, no JSF for India, no marketing leading radar for Thales and no satisfaction for a programme like the Rafale that should concentrate on delivering a better return to the French taxpayer than on attacking its competitors."

Right, no JSF for India, but JSF for UK and Italy to fill the eurofighter capability gaps.
The French taxpayer is most probably very pleased with an aircraft that can conduct all missions, today, even from an aircraft carrier and during the first day of a conflict.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MMRCA, revised bids submited

Rafale fuselage assembly line, Argenteuil - © Dassault Aviation
According to DefenseWorld.net, Dassault and Eurofighter Gmbh have submitted their revised offset bids last June 17th :

[...]
A source from one of the bidders told Defenseworld.net at the Paris Air Show 2011 that the updated offset bids included individual MoUs with third part equipment providers which supply critical equipment such as engine, avionics and other critical systems. Earlier offset propsal submitted had only offset commitments on the part of the bidders who are essentially platform integrators.

      The Indian MoD has not given any timeframe for their next engagement with Dassault and Eurofighter, the sources said adding that they expect to hear from the customer within the next 2-3 months. After the studying the offset proposals, the MoD will call the two bidders for final discussions on price/contract performance and select one among them.

      "The revised offset bids include 50% direct engagements with Indian companies such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), and several other Indian private groups such as the Tatas, Mahindras, L & T and others", said the source.
[...]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Le Bourget 2011, color HUD video





commentary translation :

Title : World premiere - digital 2-colors HUD
Guillaume Grasset
Rafale simulation trial ingineer
fighter pilot - Flight test center, Istres

"I present the 2-color digital HUD prototype which is a world premiere
First, the HUD is the most important flight instrument for a fighter pilot. It allows the pilot to visualize a maximum of flight data without having to look inside the cockpit.
What's new compared to an analogic monochrome HUD are the 3D ground display and the full field high definition video display allowing to fly day or night with low visibility.. Morever, the tracing is more accurate, the font can be changed, higlighting or flat area are possible. But the greatest novelty, the technological breakthrough, is the addition of the red color. The DGA role is to help the manufacturers to develop this prototype and assess this technology"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thales Brings Consistency to Rafale Radar


By: Bernard Fitzsimons
June 21, 2011

Thales is “five years ahead of anybody in Europe or the U.S.” in active arrays for airborne radars, according to Jean-Nöel Stock, Thales vice-president UAVs and intelligence, and a former program director for Dassault Rafale airborne systems.
Speaking earlier this month at Thales Airborne Systems’ radar and mission systems facility in Pessac, Bordeaux, where he is also site director, Stock said one of the strengths of the Rafale program is that most of the electronics come from a single company. “The consistency we bring to the electronics means the pilot has a system that is fully integrated,” he said.[...]

Read the full article on http://www.ainonline.com/

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best of Saint Dizier Airshow

Despite the lunatic weather of last weekend, many talented photographers managed to take awsome pictures of the Rafale demo.

Here is a quick selection of the best one :



Picture credits :
Bruno Delière
Chirs Young
Tony Draps
Fanaviation
Fanaviation #2
JP_mach2
Peter Emmert
Philippe Noret
Gnolpi
Gulivers
Matthias Senand
Thierry Gay
Nicolas Delattre

Libya, Rafale stats

Defense journalist, Jean Dominique Merchet, has published some interresting statistics concerning the Rafale missions in Libya :

Weapon specialists load a GBU on the Rafale M23
  • 3 months of non stop operation
  • more than 700 sorties
  • 3800 flight hours
  • 5h30 of average mission time
  • up to 28 Rafale engaged at the same time
  • several Rafale have loged more than130 flight hours in one month (one of them has even reached 140h in a month)

Weapon specialists prepare a scalp cruise missile
weapons fired :
  • 10 scalps
  • 182 AASM bombs
  • 116 GBU
  • 300 recce sorties

Le Bourget 2011, Monday pictures

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets Rafale pilots

©Thales CEO / Nicolas Sarkozy / Defense Minister Gerard Longuet












French Air Force Rafale joins the static Display, ©Thales

©Thales stand. note the Topsight helmet

©Thales stand with the RBE-2 AESA in the background

Serge Dassault / Nicolas Sarkozy / Charles Edelstenne

Aerial view of Le Bourgetstatic display
Nicolas Sarkozy meets Dassault employees



Le Bourget 2011, digital color HUD for the Rafale

The French DGA is developping a digital color Head Up Display for the Rafale. This would be the first color HUD in the world in a fighter jet.
"Until now all combat aircraft had an analog HUD that was able to display gemometric forms in 2 dimensions only with a single green font"

According to Guillaume Grasset (DGA Rafale simulation trial engineer), this new digital HUD will offer a 3D display of the ground with important items like obstacles or the runway for example assuring a safety flight by night and bad visibility.

The higher resolution of this new HUD allow to display perfect geometric forms (variable line thickness and brightness) and several different font in different colors (green and red for the current prototype) in order to match the other displays color code used in the aircraft (red for high priority threats for example)

source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/

Charles Edelstenne's speech prior the Bourget airshow

©Dassault Aviation
We reproduce here the extract of Charles Edelstenne's yesterday speech in Saint Cloud, concerning the Rafale :
In operational news, Libya is of course on the front page. Our fighter is employing its omnirole capabilities in this theater, enabling it to carry out air defense, deep strike, close air support, antiship, reconnaissance and buddy-buddy refueling missions – all from distant land bases or aircraft carriers, and during missions that last up to seven hours.
The Rafale, thanks to its exceptional Spectra self-defense system, has proven its “first strike” capability, just a few hours after receiving the green light from the UN, at a time when Libya still mustered considerable air defense capabilities.
Also worth emphasizing is our aircraft's total interoperability, its availability and dispatch reliability. Not to mention its very-high-precision weapons, whether Scalp missiles, all of which have hit their targets at ranges of several hundred kilometers, or the AASM guided bombs, which set a record by destroying a tank from a range of 57 km.
Both air force and naval versions of the Rafale have also been deployed in Afghanistan since 2007 and the aircraft is fully combat-proven.
At the same time, the French air force has participated in several joint allied exercises. The air force’s skilled crews defended the Rafale's colors in these tough tests, especially in the Brazilian exercise Cruzex, and the ATLC exercise in the United Arab Emirates.
From the technical and industrial standpoint, we continue to work on F3+ upgrades, with very promising results. These upgrades will be integrated in "tranche 4", to be delivered starting in 2013. It is worth noting here that the Rafale will be the first European fighter fitted with an active radar, and this radar will be qualified next year.
The other challenges we face include the integration of the Meteor missile (in 2018, or earlier), and improvements based on operational feedback (cannon, FBW, concrete-busting bombs, etc.).
France has placed firm orders for 180 Rafales to date, and 98 have been delivered. So we still have another 82 to be produced, which guarantees work for the assembly lines until 2018, at the current rate of 11 aircraft/year. Beyond that, French air force requirements indicate that deliveries could continue until 2025.
In bold, a very intriguing sentence, mainly because of the parenthesis, of course !

Monday, June 20, 2011

Le Bourget 2011, Dassault aviation CEO press conference





Main points :

Lybia :
Spectra has allowed the Rafale to enter first in the Libyan airspace while the
Lybian Air defenses were still solid.
Total interroperability, excellent reliability and availability demonstrated
AASM demonstrated at a range of 57 km against a tank
All the scalps launched have hit their target

Rafale F3+ :
First deliveries in 2013
RBE-2 AESA qualification in 2012 and deliveries in 2013
Meteor planned for 2018 or earlier
Other improvements expected due to field experience : on the Canon, FBW system, introduction of concrete bombs ...

French deliveries :

180 Rafale on order
98 delivered (the 100th is flying and its delivery is expected in September)
82 planes remain to be built between now and 2018 at a rate of 11 aircrafts/year
Further deliveries for french needs should continue until about 2025

Export
Program cost increase only by 4.7% in 25 years thanks to significant optimizations to reduce production costs.
Rafale global cost would be 60% less expensive than a typhoon
Dassault Aviation CEO says he's "more than optimistic" for the Indian contest adding that the Rafale does have capabilities that the Eurofighter doesn't.
Indian offsets requierements are vey high and could be difficult to fulfill.
Dassault declined to answer the japan's RFQ/RFI because they are convinced that the Final choice will be american, no matter what. "We don't want to spend money to serve as a rabbit for the USA" said Edelstenne.
Switzerland competion re-opened with very good chances for the Rafale
9 Tonnes engine for the UAE can be offered without any problem
Brazil FX-2 competition in stand by but should start up again in 2012

Le Bourget 2011, Follow the airshow live on your PC

Rafale C118, Le Bourget, June 20th ©Augustas Didzgalvis


You can follow the infilght demonstrations of Le Bourget air show with French and English commentaries directly on the Paris Air Show wesite

The Rafale C was planned at 02.23 PM.

Check the dayly program here




 
 
 
 Official Dassault videos


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rafale 30,000 hours special paint job

Rafale C121 © Gregoire Delatte, St Dizier 17/06/2011
This special camo is celabrating the Rafale 30,000 th flight hour in the French Air Force service at the Saint Dizier Air Show, this Week End.

More pictures on Foxalpha
Rafale C121 © Nono, St Dizier 17/06/2011

Rafale Pictures of the day

Rafale C106 - ©Dada, 2011/06

As far as I remember, this is one of the first pictures of a Rafale loaded with LGTR bombs. These small laser guided inert bombs are used for training purpose but the DGA is also evaluateing the possibility to use them as a limited effect weapons against military vehicles.

Rafale B in cockpit video

Short but fun :)
Note the new Ulmer UA21S oxygen mask

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saint Dizier Air Base Air Show

Next saturday and Sunday June17-18th, The Saint Dizier Air Base will be the place to be ! Don't miss this 2 days air show taking place right in the Rafale's nest !

AEROBATIC TEAMS : French Aerobatic Team, Red Arrows, Royal Jordanian Falcons Team, Breitling Jet Team, REVA team, EVAA

FIGTHERS : Mirage 2000N, Rafale, F-18, F-16 (and many more on the static display)

LEGENDARY AIRCRAFT : Stearman, MS-317, Piper L4, T-28, T6, Morane 406, Acroeze, Vampire, Falco F8L, Pionner 300, CM-170, Fouga Magister, MS-733

CHOPPERS : Fennec MASA ( with a DR400 ), Gazelle, Bell-47, EC-135


Thales RBE-2 AESA mystery

The mystery surrounding the RBE-2 AESA number of modules is thickening since this new picture of the radar was published in the last issue of Air & Cosmos. The photo shows what seems to be the actual trial radar next to the Mirage 2000 B501 which serves as a test bench for the RBE-2 AESA.

For about a year, several official pictures of this radar have been published showing an antenna with less than 850 modules whereas Thales advertises more than 1000 modules. Interrestingly, the antenna presented on this new picture has been blurried to prevent any counting.

Mirage 2000 B501 - ©JL Guérin

2 Flying test benchs are used by the CEV (French flight test center) for the AESA antenna trials : The Mirage 2000 B501 and the Mystere-XX 104. Both are fitted with a Rafale radome and speciphic avionics.

As reported by Air & Cosmos the final qualification of the new AESA radar is espected in August- early september (about 20 validation flights remaining).

Also read : Thales aesa RBE-2 modules pattern
Myster-XX 104 - © DR

Cols Bleus magazine special CdG issue

You can read the last issue of Cols Bleu Magazine here (or pdf here). This special issue is dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the CdG entry into operational service.
(in French)

Also read : CdG, 10 years of active service

Rafale M14 diverted to Malta

©Simone Farrugia - Luqa, Malta June 8th 2011
The Rafale M14 landing at Luqa Airport, Malta, on June 8th 2011 with live mica missiles and reco-NG pod. This Rafale is usualy operating from the CdG to enforce the no fly zone over Libya. It may have encountered a technical problem forcing it to make an emergency diversion to Malta.

edit : Apparently the plane just made a simulated approach and didn't land. Then, it probably returned to the CdG. (see Malteserfred commentary)

Rafale pictures of the day

Rafale M30 ©Walter - Ferte Alais June 2011

Rafale M30 ©Gregoire Delatte - Ferté Alais June 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Royal Navy pilots to fly the Rafale soon ?

Apparently, the next step of the British-French bilateral defense agreements is to send Royal Navy pilots onboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier where they will fly on the Rafale M.

The news is reported by the Telegraph, June 12th :

[...] The first five of 30 Royal Navy pilots have begun French language training at the defence college in Paris before they join the carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, where they will fly Rafale jets.
They will spend 16 weeks studying French so that they are able to communicate with their colleagues on board the vessel.
While they will wear their own uniforms they will sleep, eat and work alongside French fighter pilots, in what has been described as a major test of co-operation for the two Navies. [...]

This is indeed a major boost for the cooperation between the to Navies which are more than ever suffering budget cuts.
While the Royal Navy is intended to receive her first CVF around 2018, the British F-35C will most probably not be fully available before the end of the decade. It is therefore crucial for the British pilots to maintain their skills as far as general carrier operations are concerned. They will also gain valuable experience regarding the specific handling of a modern CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) fighter which is launched and recovered the same way as the F-35C.

If the French Navy situation is brighter on the fighter side (2nd Rafale M squadron to be operational this summer), the CdG still doesn't have a sistership to supplement her when she is in dry dock for scheduled maintenance period (which is 1.5 years every 7 years to replace the nuclear fuel). As a result, the French Navy pilots will also need a back up carrier around 2016-2018 to keep training. Logically, they will most probably do so on the brand new Queen Elisabeth CVF carrier alongside their British colleagues, all flying Rafale M fighter jets.

Also read : The British Rafale fairy tale

In the Press, France's Rafale fighter proves its 'omnirole' skills

Flight Global's report on the Rafale program status by Creg Hoyle :

"France's Rafale fighter programme is midway through what could be a pivotal year in the Dassault type's potentially half-century service history. Already involved in NATO-led combat operations over Libya, the aircraft will return to frontline duty in Afghanistan inside the next two months. Its industrial backers are, meanwhile, edging seemingly closer to a long-awaited first export sale". [...]

Read the whole article on Flight Global web site

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rafale pictures of the day

Rafale C121 - ©R. Bergmann - Tiger Meet May 16, 2011

Rafale M24 and M16 ©Hervé Cariou - June 2010

Rafale M16, full burner ©Hervé Cariou - June 2010

Air and Cosmos insight on the future Rafale

This week issue of Air and Cosmos magazine brings some additional  information regarding the future development path of the Rafale.

First, the radar : the current RBE-2 AESA provides 10° more azimut coverage compared to the PESA version (70° vs 60°) and an increased range of more than 40%
In order to meet the UAE requirement,  the power output will be increased from 9.6 kW to 14 kW by changing the cooling pomp. This should provide an additional 10% range bonus.

About the Engine : The M88-4E which is replacing the M88-2, consists in a new high pressure turbine and compressor to give an impressive 40 to 50% better life span compared to its predecessor. First bench-tested in September 2009, the M88-4E made its first flight on March 22nd 2010. 70 inflight tests were planed for 2010 and the new engine development is now almost complete. A progressive upgrade of all the M88-2 in service in the French Air Force and Navy in planned as the M88-4E production will ramp up

M88-4E on the test bench - ©SAFRAN/SNECMA
The UAE derivative of the M88-4E, called M88-9, will reach 9 tonnes of thrust by increasing the entering airflow from 65 kg/s to 72 kg/s as well as the compression rate from 24.5 to 27. As already said, this engine requires the air intake to be enlarged which is (was ?) a major blocking point in the negotiations with the UAE : Such a structural modification is not cheap and the costs will most probably have to be shared between the two countries.

As far as the weapon system is concerned, Air and Cosmos reveals several new interresting key points :

The first meteor separation trials will be conducted in 2012 to get the missile available for export customers in 2016. (French Air Force entry into service is still planned for 2018)

Regarding IR missiles, the French and British MoD would have started discussions around a common Mica-IR and ASRAAM replacement. It is worth noting that, last year, a French deputy raised the question of the Mica replacement stating that it had to be initiated with no more delays for the missile to remain competitive compared to the last versions of the US made AIM-120.
This new Franco-British IR missile could have 2 meanings :
a- The French are switching for a short range IR missile, cheaper than the Mica-IR and the Mica EM still need to be replaced in the next 10 years.
b- The British are adopting the mica-IR concept of a medium range BVR missile, agile enough to be used as a dogfighting missile to replace the ASRAAM and possibly the AMRAAM.


AASM-IR ©Sagem
The IR version of the AASM smart bomb will get enhanced long range multi-targeting algorithms in order to be more effective against tanks.
At the same time, the Reco-NG pod will receive a new function enabling in flight GPS coordinates extraction of detected targets.
Combined with the above AASM-IR improved long range multi-targeting capability against tanks, one can imagine how deadly a flight of Rafale will be in the near future : The time between detection, decision and strike being very short.



ELGTR training bomb
Regarding the contained effect weapon already discussed here, the French DGA is also considering the Lockheed-Martin scalpel bomb (small contained-area precision energetic load) which is a weaponised version of the  ELGTR training GBU especially developed for low collateral damage strikes in urban zones.







More details about the RCS reduction program, now officialy named DEDIRA (Descreet Rafale Demonstrator), are also revealed by Air and Cosmos : in addition to the INCAS program to improved the SPECTRA suite, the air intake shape could be modified and conformal weapon containers could be used to hide weapons. New RAM technology is also considered. All in all, this looks very much like the "silent Hornet" pack developed by Boeing for the F/A-18E and presented as an operational less expensive alternative to the F-35 full stealth approach.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Libya, Rafale meets the Greyhoud

Since june 2, The Rafale M operating from the CdG have new friends : C2 Greyhound. The US Navy is using these planes to help freight transport between the CdG and the Hyeres naval base. The Greyhound is capable to take off the French aircraft carrier with 2 tons of load.

Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr/















Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rafale F3-O4T and beyond

Rafale F3 weaponry - © P. Wodka-Gallien - May 2011
Last May 19, The French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA)  invited all the international defense press in order to expose the last Rafale milestones reached as well as the futures upgrades planned.












First, the Rafale F3-O4T (former Rafale roadmap) : 60 fighters ordered (25C, 25B, 10M) deliveries from 2013 to 2019
  • RBE-2 AESA : Final evaluation in June-July with a qualification expected before the end of 2011
  • DDM-NG : new missile warning receiver compatible with a future active IR jammer.
  • OSF-IT : improved front sector optronic suite
  • Damocles-XF : add a sharper TV channel to the current IR channel for better identification in urban zones. Should be introduced in 2016.
  • M88-2-E4 engine : extended service life and 2 to 4% less consumption
  • Export option : 9 tonnes  M88 engine. Require a 1.5 cm air intake enlargement and material change to keep low RCS. Proposed to the UAE.

2025 MLU :
  • RCS improvements
  • Conformal AESA : increase the radar coverage and seen as a better solution than a single moving antenna
  • Thrust Vector Control for the M88 engine
  • Sat Com system
  • UCAV control system
Unfortunately, no word about a possible HMD...

Sources :
Rafale upgrade ready in 2012, Defense Aerospace
Plans for further Rafale upgrades emerge, Aviation Week

MMRCA, open debate about the IAF shortlist

More than a month after the official announcement of the MMRCA 2 finalists (Rafale and Typhoon), international defense analysts are still debating on the causes and concequences of the Indian choice to go for an European plane rather than a US one.

In particular, Ashley Tellis, who released an extensive report about the Indian contest back in january is now quite critical about the whole MMRCA process while he used to praised it when the US fighters were still in.

Decoding India's MMRCA Decision

One of his main point is that the IAF put too much emphasis on Aerodynamic performances and not enough on the sensor suite efficiency, which, acording to him is far better on US fighters and of primary importance for BVR combat. This argument alone is very debatable. As it is true that US made AESA radar (APG-79/80) are more mature designs than their european conterparts, there isn't such a technological gap when we look at passive sensors : optronic sensors and AESA interferometers on both European fighter are indeed second to none and tremendous assets for Air defense missions.

More counter arguments to Tellis point of view can be read on Live Fist by Mihir Shah : Response to Ashley J Tellis

Also worth reading is the Bill Sweetman Analysis in Aviation Week. Sweetman focus on an often forgotten strong point of the Rafale over the F-16/18 : RCS management. He also leaks the last "Active Cancellation" clue since a long time...

[...]The Rafale has impressive capabilities, including discretion, which the French prefer to the term “stealth.” Rafale visibly shows more marks of low-observables technology than its contemporaries, and there is evidence that its Thales Spectra electronic warfare system has an active cancellation mode.[...]

Rafale enters the Malaysia competition

Mig-29N pilot with LA100 Rafale Helmet - ©Bud Bilko - LIMA 2007
Although it is quite an unexpeted news, the Malay Mail is reporting that Dassault Aviation will open an office in Kuala Lumpur in the next weeks.


[...]The Malay Mail was informed by defence industry sources that the decision to open the office here “within the next one month or two” was a clear statement by Dassault that “it was serious” in offering its Rafale – which the company described as the only omni-role fighter - for the Royal Malaysian Air Force's (RMAF) multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) programme.[...]

The RMAF requirement is for 12 to 18 fighter jets in order to replace MIG-29N. At first glance, it was thought that the Malay authorities would have selected the Boeing F/A-18E as the logical complement for its F/A-18D fleet. On the contrary, it seems that 3 other fighters are now concidered : the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen and most probably the Dassault Rafale. This new Malay contest looks very much like a mini remake of the Indian MMRCA competition with almost the same actors. The Rafale being shortlisted in India might well be the reason why the French plane is now considered seriously by the RMAF. It is worth noting that Dassault usually does not bid if the contest is not percieved to be fair (Recently, Dassault did not respond to Japan and Korea RFI/RFQ)

[...]Last December, Dassault officials met with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Putrajaya. No details of the meeting have come out but it was believed that as a result of the meeting, Dassault had decided to actively pursue the MRCA programme.
The tender for the programme is only expected to be announced at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) show this December. All four fighters bidding for the MRCA contract are expected to take part in the show.[...]