Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Switzerland, the Federal council chooses the Gripen NG

Official press release from Dassault Aviation / Rafale International

The Rafale team took note of the choice of Swiss authorities for the acquisition of their future fighter aircraft. It regrets that the Federal Council, as officially expressed, has "knowingly decided not to position Switzerland at the highest European level as regards the performance of new combat aircrafts."

The capabilities of the Rafale would allow the Helvetic Confederation to acquire a lesser number of aircraft to meet operational requirements, at a cost equivalent or less, as shown by the evaluations of the Swiss Air Force.

The "helvetic" Gripen exists only on paper. Its technical development and production should increase significantly the financial efforts of the Swiss authorities for the implementation of this program.

Rafale International thanks the 250 Swiss companies that have joined its project of Industrial Partnership in the 26 cantons of the Helvetic Confederation.

Bern, 30 November 2011

Nathalie BAKHOS
Communication Export

So Switzerland has decided not to follow the recomendation of the Armasuisse experts and to go with the less expensive aircraft. So be it. 
It's worth noting that this is the first export of the Gripen-NG which is not in service anywhere yet. So Switzerland is also taking some risks regarding the development of the aircraft.
Eventually, many people in the Swiss Air Force might wonder what was the point of the technical evaluation...

Also read Bill Sweetman report

Switzerland, Armasuisse officialy ranks the Rafale first

A few days before switzerland makes its final choice, the main operational results of the Armasuisse evaluation have been released.

Armasuisse made a first evaluation of the Gripen, Rafale and Eurofighter in 2008. Several Air to Air and Air to Ground trials were performed by the 3 contenders, in Switzerland,  in order to assess their relative efficiency in different roles.
A second Evaluation was done between March and August 2009 to take into account the upgrades and improvements of the 3 fighters in their "2015 form". This evaluation was based on data provided by the manufacturers or simulated flights. This final Armasuisse report, with updated rankings was released in November 2009 and is recommending the Rafale for the Swiss Air Force (confirming the rumors heard during the last 2 years).

In this report, each capability is ranked on 9 points, 6 points being the minimum score to meet the Swiss Air Force requirement (We understand that the 6 points benchmark would be the F/A-18C score)

©Basler Zeitung November 30, 2011
Basler Zeitung has published the scores for 2 main mission types (see above) : defensive and offencive Air-Air missions. The green scores refer to the 2008 evalaluation while the red scores refer to the final 2009 evaluation including 2015 improvements.
  • The Rafale is ranked first with 7.28 and 7.41 points, 
  • The Eurofighter second with 6.49 and 6.54 points,
  • The Gripen is third with 5.68 and 5.62 points. Therefore it does not manage to pass the threshold of 6 points.

Various quotes from the report :

"Rafale and Eurofighter showed generally better performance than the F/A-18, Gripen worse

"The performance of the Gripen in air-air engagements as well as attack missions was insufficient"

"The most limiting factors of the Gripen design were the operating time, the flight performance and the maximum weapon load"

"The Rafale is the only aircraft that has met the requirements of the Air Force in all types of applications"
So the report is quite clear regarding the capabilities of the 3 aircrafts:
1- The Rafale is the best technical performer and thus recommended as the Tiger replacement.
2- The Rafale was ranked above the Eurofighter in both Air defense and ground attack missions.
3- The Gripen has serious weaknesses and is considered as a step back compared to the F/A-18 operated by the Swiss Air Force.

Basler Zeitung

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Video, Switzerland competition as seen by the Swiss themselves

A must see video from the Swiss TV show "Mise au point" about the Switzerland fighter contest. The Journalist had the chance to meet all 3 contenders :
  • Laage Airbase, Germany,  for the Eurofighter
  • Istres Flight test center, France, for the Rafale
  • Ronneby, Sweeden for the Gripen

Interesting points :

Eurofighter praises its larger radar and powerfull engines, Rafale focuses on its Front Sector Optronics and AESA antenna while Gripen emphasizes on it's small size and cheaper fly away price and maintenance costs.

During his Interview, Fernand Carrel, former Swiss Air Force chief and Mirage IIIS pilot, ranks the Rafale first on technical merits, then the Eurofighter and last, the Gripen :

"At the operiational level, the Rafale is the leader" He says.

According to him, the Swiss pilots would prefer the Rafale but he concedes that the final decision will be political and economical.

To the question what car would you compare your aircraft to, the Rafale pilot answer is quite funny :
  • Eurofighter pilot : A ferrari
  • Gripen.pilot : A porsche
  • Rafale pilot : James Bond Aston Martin or Batmobile (lot of hidden gadgets in the Rafale ? Bond did have a DB9 with a cloaking device, didn't he ? ;))

Monday, November 28, 2011

12F Rafale M Squadron training at Hyeres Naval Base

7 Rafale M of The 12F squadron have left their home base of Landivisiau, (Brittany) and moved to the Hyeres Naval Base in order to perform training with the French Navy ships based in Toulon. they will also work with the "Ile du Levant" facilities (missile tests). The training will take place from  November 29 to December 16.

Source :

Exclusive Rafale jacket

After the 2 famous jackets designed especially for the Rafale solo display team, Dominique Gabille has made a third one for the author of the "30,000 hours" Rafale paintwork. Very nice ! :)
Domique Gabille is specialized in custom leather flight jackets paintings

Friday, November 25, 2011

Afghanistan, Rafale and Mirage support Italian troops

Defense journalist JM Tanguy reports that a patrol of 1 Rafale and 1 Mirage 2000D has engaged Taliban fighters in order to support Italian ground troops. Apparently the timing was tight :

12h20 : take off
12h40 : retasking by the Italian JTAC
01h00 : The Rafale and the Mirage arrive on the zone
01h10 : GBU-12 are fired to Support Italian troops
01h30 : Show of force
03h55 : landing

The 3 Rafale deployed in Afghanistan will return to France in a few days

Sunday, November 20, 2011

M88-4E engine program on track

According to Snecma Dubai Air Show brochure, the development of the new version of the Rafale engine, the M88-4E is on track.

  • Feb 2010 : high altitude ground tests
  • March 22, 2010 : First flight on a Rafale at Istres Airbase
  • End of 2010 : Flight readiness certificate (after 70 test flights)
  • 2011 : Endurance tests
  • End of 2011 : delivery of the first production-standard M88-4E

"The aim of this program is to extend the engine’s service life and time between inspections for several key parts. Upgrades are planned to the high-pressure compressor and high-pressure turbine"
So, nothing new but the fact that everything seems to run as planed

Pool, The most likely Rafale export(s)

Brazil, Qatar, United Arabe Emirates, Switzerland, Malaisya, Kuwait, Greece, India ... all those countries have shown or are showing interest in the Rafale. According to you which are the most likely to order the French Fighter jet ?
You can answer this question in the pool on the right (multiple choices allowed)

Rafale Normandie Niemen squadron ramping up

The 4th French Air Force Rafale squadron, EC02.030 Normandie Niemen is ramping up slowy at the Mont de Marsan air base and should be reactivated in September 2012..

It currently operates 4 Rafale C (source delta reflex):

C 113 / 118 IR
C 119 / 118 IX
C 123 / 118 GB
C 129 / 118 GH

The squadron should open its website soon with high quality pictures (sneak preview below). Meanwhile, you can check their facebook page. All pictures thanks to El Doctor. Also don't miss the superb Mirage F1 pictures on Checksix 

Rafale program updates

©Dassault aviation - A. Hernoult
Here is a quick list of the main points discussed in the last Fox3 issues


  • Performance evaluation passed
  • A2A detection/range exeed expectations
  • A2G and terrain following modes also tested
  • First production Rafale C delivered with an AESA in 2012
  • First production Rafale M delivered with an AESA in 2013
  • Qualification expected early 2013
  • First French Airforce squadron operational with the AESA in early 2014 

  • First flight envelope expension done in early 2011 (including carrier trials)
  • First batch of 200 Missiles ordered
  • Operational service expected in 2016
 AM-39 Exocet block 2 mod 2
  • Integration on Rafale completed
  • Final operational evaluation in early 2012
  • Operational on French Navy Rafale in mid-2012
  • French Navy Pilot training with the missile has already started
  • Link 16 targeting from AEW aircrafts (E-2, ATL-2) is developed

DDM-NG (New Generation Missile Detector)
  • increase range and field of view / decrease false alerts
  • In flight testing in progress (2nd data gathering campaign completed in early 2011)

  • Extensively used in Libya by French Air Force and Navy Rafale (225 units fired)
  • success rate very close to 100%
  • GPS/INS/IIR variant operational since mid-2011
  • 800 units of the 250kg type delivered (3400 ordered)
  • Range >50km for the 250kg type (57km demonstrated in Libya)
  • GPS/INS/Laser version 
    • Qualification phase in 2012
    • Operational service entry in 2013
    • 15km range with 90° of boresight release demonstrated against a 80km/h target with an acuracy of 1 meter
  • First firing trials of the 125 kg variant completed (80km range demonstrated)
  • 1000kg version development expected rapidly
  • New guidance kit for antiship attack considered with datalink capability

  • Rover system fully operational on Rafale
  • Rover terminal fitted to the Rafale airframe (not the LDP) and thus also allows radar or FSO images to be transmitted to the FAC

Libya campaign

  • All missions were operated without any dedicated SEAD and EW support thanks to Spectra
  • Spectra Allowed accurate detection, location and attack of Libyan Air defenses 
  • Spectra jammer allowed soft kills of the Libyan radar systems
  • GBU-12 used for dynamic targeting
  • AASM used against high value well-defended targets and SAM system  (SA-3/SA-6)
  • Damocles pod used for laser targetting (GBU-12), identification and target GPS coordinates extraction (AASM)
  • Half of the Rafale M missions performed at night
  • Rafale considered as a key tool for ISTAR missions (Intelligence, Surveillance, Taget acquisition, Reconnaissance)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

MMRCA, final choice in 4 weeks

November 18, Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne said:

"We're calculating very hard. A lot of work is going on. In another four weeks, we should be able to wrap it up. No matter how long it takes, we have to get it right. There are a lot of complicated figures. But mid-December we should have a good sense of who gets selected."

source : Livefist

Rafale pictures of the day

Pictures credit: Normandie Niemen squadron
thanks to El Doctor ;)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rafale International, Fox3 issues n°15 and n°16 available

Fox3 N°15 : Libyan operations

Fox3 N°16 : Rafale program updates

Previous issues:
Fox3 N°01
Fox3 N°02
Fox3 N°03
Fox3 N°04
Fox3 N°05
Fox3 N°06
Fox3 N°07
Fox3 N°08
Fox3 N°09
Fox3 N°10
Fox3 N°11
Fox3 N°12
Fox3 N°14

UAE, can Juppe overcome the price issue ?

French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe will be in the UAE during the end of this week. He will most probably try to overcome the price issue raised by the UAE authorities during the Dubai Airshow. Back in October, Juppe was personnaly tasked by President Sarkozy to manage the negociations with the UAE about the Rafale. According to the French Paper "Le Point" he would also be in charge of negociating the sale of the 60 Emirate Mirage 2000-9 to ... Libya.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UAE, tough negociations on the Rafale deal

UAE, wednesday 16, Dubai Airshow.

"Thanks to French President Sarkozy, France could not have done more diplomatically or politically to secure the Rafale deal. Bi-lateral relations have never been stronger and his constant personal intervention in this process has sustained Dassault at the forefront of our considerations. Regrettably Dassault seems unaware that all the diplomatic and political will in the World cannot overcome uncompetitive and unworkable commercial terms."

This is how wednesday 16 began for Dassault: a straight  and unequivocal declaration by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed reported by WAM the Emirates News Agency
The news, rapidly spread all over the web and media like a shockwave raising one question: does that mean  the negociations are over and the deal is as good as dead ?

Well, even if the words are quite direct, they are also very precise : First the role of the French President in the negociations is saluted, meaning that there is no polical issue between France and the UAE. Then Dassault is pointed out for the price they ask for the 60 jets. I interpret that as a direct request from the Crown Prince to the French presidency to put pressure on Dassault in order to lower the price of the whole Rafale package.

So, is the deal dead ? Apparently no, or at least not yet. According to a French source quoted by Reuters, negociations are still ongoing and the Crown Prince declaration would be part of the trading "game". Indeed, the UAE are well aware that Switzerland and India are also about to sign for either the Rafale or the Typhoon in the following weeks. Therefore the Typhoon RFP and the public statement of wednesday morning are puting considerable pressure on Dassault. As a consequense, a Rafale failure in the UAE could put the French manufacturer in a very bad position in India. Clearly, Eurofighter Gmbh RFP announcement was a smart move, executed with a perfect timing. But as a matter of fact, the chess game is not over yet.

UAE, France still confident regarding the Rafale sale

French Defense Minister and Air Force chief at the Dubai Airshow
Despite all the noise surrounding the RFP sent to Eurofighter Gmbh, French authorities present at the Dubai Airshow seem quite confident about a favorable outcome for the Rafale. Though they probably have been surprised by this announcement whereas they were hopping for a signature during the fair. Nevertheless, several positive statements have been made since the RFP development.

The French Air Force chief, General Palomeros has insisted on the fact that the technical part of the negociations (system upgrades and new weapon loads) have been settled and agreed. The UAE also abandoned their request for a more powerfull M88-2 after several successfull tests in hot temperture condition.

According to General Palomeros on ainonline:

"We would like to achieve a common standard, and invest in new capabilities" (additional radar modes, electronic warfare and communications).They [the UAE] are not buying an aircraft, they are buying a system, and France is a real partner
"The negotiations are now about the cost of maintenance and manpower. The French defense ministry has also been negotiating a costed, long-term support contract with Snecma for the M88

This is also confirmed by UAE's former Air Force chief, Major General Khaled al-Buainnain who said last Saturday to

"There's no required enhancements.The UAE has always special requirements. I think the enhancement issue is over, the issue is now financial and contractual. This is a massive project that needs deliberate study."

Tactical Report is also pointing out the fact that from the UAE point of view, the Typhoon RFP should not be interpreted as a lower interest for the Rafale.

With 3 highly important contests (UAE, India and Switzerland) involving the Rafale and the Typhoon, expected to be decided before the end of the year, both delta canard jet teams are pushing hard to occupy the mediatic ground and appear in a favourable stance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UAE, another Rafale vs Eurofighter battle ?

After India and Switzerland, it seems that another battle between the twin European fighters is on the way in the UAE. The Eurofighter consorsotium has confirmed today at the opening of the Dubai AirShow that it was asked by the UAE to make an offer for an unknown Typhoon number in order to replace the Mirage 2000-9 of the country. This comes as a surprise as France was supposed to be in final negociations to sell the Rafale.  It's worth noting that it is Britain and BAE which are in charge of exporting the Typhoon in the Middle East. They had a first informative meeting with the UAE authorities about the jet capabilities on October 17.

What does this last minute development mean for the Rafale ? First it is almost certain, now, that no deal can be expected during the Dubai Air Show or even before the end of the year. As a mater of fact, the UAE ar not in a hurry (their Mirage 2000-9 are almost new) and they will take all the time necessary to squeeze the French offer until the last drop. By the way, this situation looks very much like when Saudi Arabia was negociating its Typhoon and put the Rafale in the Balance to get more from BAE and the UK. 

Last year, The UAE had already asked Boeing to make a F-18E offer and earlier in 2011, they were also negociating with Lockheed Martin for additional F-16E.

Sources :

Friday, November 11, 2011

UAE, Dubai Air show starts November 13

The Dubai Air Show will take place from November 13 to November 17. The French Air Force will send 3 Rafale to the fair: 2 for the static display and 1 for the in flight solo display.
The French Air Force chief, General Palomeros, will be present at the opening ceremony on November 13.

The French authorities are in final negotiations with the UAE for the purchase of 60 Rafale, but it is not known if an announcement will be made during the Air show.

Libya, French Defense Minister congratulate the men and women engaged in Harmattan

November 5, Mont de marsan Air Base, the French Defense Minister, Gerard Longuet, has met the men and women of the 3 armed forces who participated in the operations over Libya.
He notably underlined the first elint missions as early as February 23, as well as the first strikes conducted by Rafale and Mirage 2000 crews on March 19, while the Gaddafi Air defense network was still fully operational. Despite the risk, the French airmen managed to stop and neutralize the dictator's tanks a few hours from the Benghazi city.
source :

Video, Rafale catapult trials at Lakehurst

Back to the nineties ! Here is a very interesting video from the French TV show "Pegase". We are in October 1995  and the Rafale team has moved to Lakehurst, USA, to perform the 4th catapult and arresting cable trial campaign with heavy loads. In the Video, we can see the Rafale M01 captapulted with 2 full 2000L external fuel tanks (total weight: 19.2 metric tons). For safety reasons, those external tanks were filled with water to be droped before landing (as seen at the end of the video)

Lakehurst NAES, New jersey, is the only western facility equiped for land based catapult trials. The Rafale M01 did 4 trial campaigns at Lakehurst (one in 1992, 2 in 1993 and one in 1995). Then the M02 (2nd Rafale M prototype) started the sea trials on the Foch French aircraft carrier (now, Sao Paulo, in service in the Brazilian Navy)

At 1min40, we can see the most famous Eric Gerard, Dassault test pilot and former French Navy pilot who performed, with his collegue Yves Kerhervé, these early Rafale M trials (sweat 90s style pullover BTW :) )

View Larger Map

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MMRCA, is a 5% price difference irrelevant ?

Following the rumors about the 2 bids that were opened last Friday November 4th, lets speculate a little bit.
It is said that both bids are very close to each other with the Rafale about 5% cheaper. Although this difference may seem insignificant at first glance, it's still a quite large amount of money considering the unit price of a jet and the quantity bought by the IAF.

With a total order of 126 fighters, those 5% represent the price of 6 Rafale. That means that for the same price, you can either get 126 typhoon or 132 Rafale. It's as if Dassault was giving an additional plane for free for each squadron of 20 planes... nice :)

Now, if we estimate that the unit cost of the Typhoon is $100 million and the Rafale $95 millions (5% less), The total cost difference for 126 airframes reaches  $630 million which represents no less than 700 mica missiles (given a mica price at  $0.85 millions)

In this perspective those 5% start to make sense : Either you get 6 more airframes, or you can get enough BVR missiles to equip your entire MMRCA fleet (6 missiles per aircraft)...for free.

Yet, it also works the other way if the typhoon is the cheapest (as reported by Deccan Herald) ;)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Libya, The Last 4 Rafale have returned

General Palomeros with a Rafale pilot
November 4th, 02;00 pm, The last 4 Rafale that were stationed at the Sigonella Air base, Sicily, have returned to their home base of Saint Dizier yesterday, as reported by the French Ministry of defense. The pilots were welcome by their family and the "Provence" and Gascogne" squadrons staff.

Rafale Libyan operation photo album
Previous messages concerning Libya  on RafaleNews

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MMRCA, first rumors on the bids

India Ministry of Defense
So, the bids have been unsealed and their content revealed to Dassault, EADS and the Indian Defense Ministry officials. Then, each company has forwarded the figures to their respective government. The Indian MOD has already stated that the final decision will be anounced in 6 to 8 weeks. Until then, both competitors must respect a non divulgation agreement. However, some rumors are already leaking...

  • Rumor N°1 : Dassault bid would be only marginally lower, meaning that it will take some time to find out the best offer including all parameters. 
  • Rumor N°2 : both bids would be above the initial 42,000 Crore ($10 billions) estimate of the Indian MOD stated in 2007. That's not really a surprise but, now, some sources are talking about $20 billions which is a huge increase. 
  • Rumor N°3 : A scheduled meeting, on the sidelines of the G20, between French president Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan have been cancelled and the cause could be related to the MMRCA and the opening of the bids (well, this one sounds very unlikely).
sources : (video report)

Friday, November 4, 2011

2 videos about the current Rafale deployement in Afghanistan


This is it. the Indian Authorities and the Executives from Dassault and EADS will know in a few hours who is the lowest bidder of the MMRCA contest.
Indeed, the procedure imposes to both contender to be present during the opening of the sealed offers.
Theoricaly the lowest bid should win but in fact the process is a bit more complicated as the offset proposals which were submited and approved last month and the maintenance/operating costs have to be taken into account to identify the best overall offer. According to the IAF Air Marshal at least 3 weeks will be necessary to compute the best package.

Check Livefist for possible hot news during the day !
Also read IANS article

Thursday, November 3, 2011

MMRCA, the last US attempt to hijack the deal

48h before the openning of the 2 finalists' bids, the US departement has initiated a last attempt to win the contest by proposing (again) the F-35 to indian authorities.
[...] India has demonstrated its interest in upgrading its inventory of fighter aircraft. It intends to
purchase 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft and is working with Russia on the development
of the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The U.S. F-16 and F-18
competed, but were not down-selected, in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)
competition in April 2011. Despite this setback, we believe U.S. aircraft, such as the Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF), to be the best in the world. Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the United
States would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements (infrastructure,
security, etc.) to support India’s future planning. [...]

Honnestly I don't really understand the meaning or the purpose of such a move. Do they really expect india to cancel the MMRCA process if Dassault and Eurofighter bids are too high ? If so, a F-35 proposal would probably be out of the MMRCA price range too. Besides, India is already involved in a partnership with Russia to develop its own stealth medium and heavy fighters. It this context, it is difficult to imagine the US accepting to provide sensitive F-35 technology to India unless they intend to provide a F-35 "lite" with downgraded stealth capabilities.

Also read flightglobal Analysis