Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MMRCA, The mother of all deals goes to the Rafale

As promised by the Indian authorities, the MMRCA winner announcement has been made before the end of January. Today, January 31, 2012.
This was our great pleasure to learn earlier today that India eventually chose the Dassault Rafale (also known as Katrina in the Indian internet community ;))
We would like to congratulate the Rafale team which despite many disapointments during the last 10 years, has never stopped believing in the Rafale potential. Their tenacity has finally paid off.
The Indian decision is the reward of  more than 20 years of very hard work done by some of the most talented aerospace technicians, engineers and pilots in the world.

Today's victory is even more valuable as the MMRCA contest was probably one of the most challenging of the decade because of the extensive technical evaluation brilliantly performed by the Indian Air Force between 2008 and 2010

Below is the official press release of Dassault aviation :

Following the announcement of the final selection of the Rafale in the frame of the MMRCA program, Dassault Aviation and its partners are honored and grateful to the Indian Government and the people of India to be given the opportunity to extend their long-lasting  cooperation. Dassault Aviation and its partners reiterate their commitment to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and underline their pride in contributing to India’s defence for over half a century.

French Presidency Press release :

 The President of the French Republic has learned of India’s selection of the Rafale for the acquisition by the Indian Air Force of 126 fighter aircrafts. France is pleased with the Indian government’s decision to select the French aircraft to enter into exclusive negotiations with Dassault. This announcement comes at the end of a very high-level, fair and transparent competition involving two European finalists. The Rafale has been selected thanks to the aircraft’s competitive life-cycle costs, after the April 2011 pre-selection on the basis of its top-level operational performance. The negotiation of the contract will begin very soon and has the full support of the French authorities. It will include important technology transfers guaranteed by the French government. The realisation of the Rafale project will illustrate the depth and scale of the strategic partnership between France and India.

A Brief history oh the MMRCA contest :
  • 2001 : The MMRCA RFI is initiated by the Indian government
  • August 2, 2007 : the RFP is sent to the 6 contenders : Boeing (F-18E), Lockheed Martin (F-16E), Dassault Aviation (Rafale F3+), EADS (Eurofighter Typhoon), SAAB (Gripen NG) and Mikhoyan (Mig-35). The Indian request was for 126 multirole fighters, 108 of which would be built in India whith numerous transferts of technology..
  • August 8, 2008 - May 27, 2009 : Technical evaluation of the 6 aircrafts by the IAF
  • August 1, 2008 : Offset proposals are provided by the 6 contenders
  • August, 2009 - Dec 18, 2010 : Flight evaluation of the 6 aircrafts by the IAF
  • April, 2010 : Indian MoD requests updated bids 
  • April 27, 2011 : The Rafale and the Typhoon are shorlisted based on the results of the IAF technical evaluation (All other contenders are eliminated)
  • November 4, 2011: The financial bids of the 2 remaining contenders are officialy opened
  • January 31, 2012: The Rafale is officially selected by the Indian Ministry of Defense

Livefist: India Chooses The Rafale

Livefist: India Chooses The Rafale: The Indian government has declared the Dassault Rafale the lowest bidder in the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition...

I can't resist to reproduce here the complete post of Indian Defense journalist Shiv Aroor on Livefist as it was his tweet that brought the good news to my ears. Congratulation to India, the IAF and Dassault ! 

Shiv in the Rafale during Aero India, Jan 2011

It's the Rafale! The Indian government has declared the Dassault Rafale the lowest bidder in the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition, signalling its prospective victory in a monumental competition that has spanned six years. The story broke first on Livefist. While a letter of intent (LoI) was issued to Dassault Aviation today, a final contract will be signed contingent on successful negotiations by March (or later) this year. EADS Cassidian has been informed of the government's decision and is likely to receive further information in the days ahead on how the selection was made. The decision is a big blow to the EADS campaign, considering how much they'd thrown at winning this one.

When and if the deal is finally signed, it will be Dassault's first export contract for the Rafale and the single largest it has ever participated in. I only say "if" because there is still work left before contract signature. But this is, by far, the closest Dassault has gone to clinching an order for the Rafale. The Rafale pips the Eurofighter Typhoon for what is by far India's largest aerospace contract and one of the most keenly tracked in recent aerospace contracting.

Not to crow or anything, but I happen to be the only Indian journalist who has flown in the Rafale. Here's my account of that amazing ride. Only if you must though :)

French Air Force Chief visits Qatar and Saudi Arabia

The French Air Force Chief, General Palomeros was in Qatar from January 21 to 24. He met his conterpart, General Mubarak Al Kayareen as well as the Qatari armed Forces Chief, General Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah. According to the French Ministry of Defense, the meeting was the occasion to confirm the strong relationship between the 2 Air Forces.

Palomeros, then went to Saudi Arabia (Jan. 24-26) where he could meet the French and Saudi pilots participating in the Green Shield exercise. 3 French Rafale were engaged in Green Shield along with 3 Mirage 2000D.

source: www.defense.gouv.fr

Rafale pictures of the day, TLP 2012-1

2 Rafale C are currently participating to the first Tactical Leadership Programme iteration of this year taking place in Albacete, Spain, from January 16 to February 10.
The French Air Force has also sent 4 Mirage 2000D, 2 Mirage 2000C, 2 Alpha Jet, 1 E-3F
On the ground 2 Crotal-NG will simulate SAM threats and 1 communication unit will manage radio jaming.
About 30 blue (the good one) and 10 red (agressors) fighters will conduce complex missions of all types (from Air interdiction to CAS). For the first time in TLP history the operations will use the link 16.

sources :

Monday, January 30, 2012

In the press, Dassault magazine 148

The last issue of Dassault Magazine has a nice article by Henri Hémon about the nuclear Rafale which are operated by the 01.091 Gascogne squadron.

Operational since July 2010, the squadron  primary mission is nuclear deterence with the 300kt ASMP-A nuclear missile (along with 2x2000L drop tanks and 6 mica). According to pilots the training focuses on low altitude terrain following and inflight refueling. Each mission lasts between 5 to 6 hours and is usualy performed at night (using NVG) without electromagnetic emission to insure the discretion of the attack. Hence a digital map is prefered to the radar in order to achieve the terrain following function.

However, the radar and the link16 can be used at any moment to engage hostile fighters as the Rafale also carries 6 BVR mica missiles. That's a huge improvement compared to the Mirage 2000N which only had 2 magic II short range missiles for its selfdefense. With such a missile load, the Rafale can protect its own tanker and is much more difficult to intercept than its predecessor.

Besides the nuclear mission, the Gascogne is also tasked with conventional reconnaissance (reco NG pod) and air to ground missions with classic GBU, or stand off AASM and Scalp missiles. It is worth noting that all those capabilities were demonstrated by the squadron during the Libyan conflict. That was possible because the pilots comes from different specialized squadrons within the French Air Force: The core of the staff are former Mirage 2000N pilots/WSO completed by pilots who are expert in air defense, conventional strike and reconnaissance (former Mirage 2000 C/D/-5 and Mirage F1 CR/CT pilots).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Switzerland, Dassault strikes back

The Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung reveals today that Dassault Aviation has made a new offer to Switzerland for 18 Rafale on January 19, 2012. 

The price would be CHF 2.7 billions (€2.2 billions) some CHF 400 millions (€331.7 millions) cheaper than the 22 Gripen offered by Sweeden.

With this offer, each Rafale would be only 6 % more expensive than a Gripen, which is a real bargain considering the additionnal capabilities of the French fighter (range, load):
  • Gripen offer : CHF 3.1 billions for 22 jets or CHF 141 millions per aircraft
  • Rafale offer : CHF 2.7 billions for 18 jets or CHF 150 millions per aircraft

Indeed, Dassault claims that a fleet of 18 Rafale has equivalent efficiency as 22 Gripen, a fact confirmed by a high ranked officer of the Swiss army interviewed by the Newspaper, who states that 3 Rafale/Eurofighters were able to fulfill the same missions as 5 Gripen. Besides, SonntagsZeitung reports that the French offer would also includes unlimited access to French Air Bases, as well as the possibility to use French simulators, training areas ower the Mediterranean sea and French logistic during international exercises.

Le Matin Newspaper reports that the new French offer will be for a Rafale with the same avionic/sensor suite, air defense capabilities and offset package but with fewer Air to Ground options (No pylons for heavy bombs for example) in order to better match Switzerland needs. Moreover, access to Helios reconnaissance satellite and French AWACS data would also be in the package.

On Tuesday January 24, The Security committee of the National council had decided to check that the selection procedure was devoid of any irregularities or cheating after they received a letter signed by a mysterious "groupe pour une armee credible et integre" (Group for an honest and credible army) revealing that several parameters of the evaluation would have been changed in order to favor the Gripen (some even claim that without those "corrections" the Gripen wouldn't have passed some of the minimum thresholds set by the Air Force). Eventually, the informations leaked by the letter were juged serious enough by the security committee  to ask for an investigation.

www.tdg.ch (Dassault New offer to Switzerland)
www.tdg.ch (possible investigation on Gripen selection irregularities)

also read :
Federal Council chooses the Gripen
Armasuisse ranks the Rafale first

Friday, January 27, 2012

British MoD considering Rafale, F/A-18E waiting for the F-35

F-35C trials at Lakehurst Base ©Richards
Due to the recent arresting hook issues encontered by Lockheed Martin during the first carrier landing trials of the F-35C, the British Ministry of Defense starts to think about a possible plan B if the american aircraft were to be delayed. The problem seems quite serious as it could lead to a major redesign of the rear fuselage of the plane and thus to significant additional costs and delay.

"According to The Times, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, the current commander-in-chief fleet, said concerns were growing about rising costs and delays in the JSF programme, something now worsened by order cuts from the US. 

Soar, who was addressing defence companies at the ADS Maritime Interest Group, reportedly said the UK might not receive the $100m per piece F-35 jets until a decade after the delivery of the carrier, currently set for 2019.

He was said to be considering the French Dassault Rafale and the US F-18 Super Hornet to give Britain an "interim aircraft capability". 

Soar indicated that the JSF would be a major talking point at the next strategic defence review in 2015."

sources :

Rafale M carrier landing training at Lann Bihoué Naval Base

5 Rafale M are currently detached to the Lann Bihoué Naval Base for carrier  landing training. The base is indeed equiped with an Optical Landind System (OLS) similar to the one onboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
Those trainings will also take place at the Istres Air Base in order to reduce noise disturbances for the civilians living near the Landivisiau Naval base from which the Rafale M usualy operate.

During those simulated carrier landings, the aircrafts are guided by both the OLS and the Landing Signal Officers (who are experienced pilots themselves) and must touch the runway in a very small box to validate the landing, then they apply full engine power and go for another approach and so forth.  As during real carrier operations, each plane lands about 45s after the previous one.

Junior Rafale M pilots as well as veterans have to perform those intense trainings in order to be ready for the next Charles de Gaulle deployement that will take place next March.

Sources :

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When MMRCA winner will be revealed ?

Only 7 days left in January and still no sign from the Indian Ministry of Defense.
When do I think the winner will be announced ? My bet is Friday 27 2012, the day after the Republic day.
What do you think ? Vote on the rigth ! >>>>>

By the way, don't forget to check the "Twtter updates" field on the right for breaking news (Sometimes, I only tweet)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rafale pictures of the day

Casual training at Saint Dizier Air Base
Pictures credit : Reno62

nEUROn demonstrator revealed

The nEUROn  demonstrator has been officaly presented yesterday, January 20, at the Istres Air Base, to the representatives of the 6 partners of the project.

The project was initiated in 2003 by the French authorities in order to develop European aerospace expertise on key UCAV technology such as advanced stealth, internal weapon bay, tailless airframe flight control, and autonomous flight.
First flight is expected within 6 months

Official Dassault Aviation press release

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A new life for the Rafale M F1

The Rafale M10, ready to be upgraded
A very good news from LeMamouth : The retrofit process of the 10 first Rafale M has begun at the SIAe (Industrial Aeronautic Service) facilities near Clermont- Ferrand.

The Rafale M1 to M10 were delivered between 2000 and 2002 at the early F1 standard with limited capabilities (Mica EM and, Magic 2 missiles for Air defense and buddy-buddy refueling pod)

They were put in storage in 2008 waiting for their retrofit to be funded (€300 millions agreed in 2009). The first aircraft to be upgraded will be the M10. Each retrofit is expected to last 18 months. The final integration work will take place in Bordeaux-Merignac where the airframes will directly be inserted in the Rafale assembly line.

The delivery schedule is the following :
  • 2014 : 2 aircrafts
  • 2015 : 3 aircrafts
  • 2016 : 4 aircrafts
  • 2017 : Rafale M1 (which is currently used as a test bench for carrier trials).

Monday, January 16, 2012

MMRCA, 10 more days and more rumors

Last air refueling before the announcement ?
On January 4, the MMRCA annoucement was to be made in 3 more weeks. Now, on January 16, it is intended to occur in 10 days or at least before the end of January. as per the last reports in the India press quoting sources from the IAF and the Ministry of Defense. So, it seems that the schedule is still more or less on track.

The Indian Express reports :

" The proposals of the two contenders — French Dassault Rafale and EADS Eurofighter — have been scrutinised and final calculations related to life cycle costs and transfer of technology details are being finalised. While IAF sources have said the winner would be announced in the next 10 days, Defence Ministry officials said the decision would be announced by the end of this month."
"The final signing of the contract, however could take up to six months, the sources said. The original plan was to sign the contract this financial year, but it could be shifted beyond March."

Now the rumors of the week :
  • Rumor N°1 : The Rafale package would be L1. What to think about this rumor ? Well, last week, it was supposed to be the Eurofighter, so it's a draw.
  • Rumor N°2 : Eurofighter partners, BAE and EADS would "dispute" each other in order to be the prime bidder of the consortium in India. Formally, it is EADS which is in charge of the Indian market. The question is why would BAE try to interfer with EADS leadership so late in the process ?
  • Rumor N°3 : Dassault would have just hired a famous Indian Public Relation firm. If true, this move rises the same question ... why so late in the process ? 
All the answers in 10 days !

RAF General visits Rafale Base

Royal Air Force General Simon Bryant visited the Saint Dizier Air Base on January 9. The Rafale system, as used in Libya, was presented to him by the technicians and officers of the Rafale squadrons. He Also flew a mission in a Rafale simulator. The Saint Dizier Air Base hosts some 40 Rafale.
Source: defense.gouv.fr

Rafale pictures of the day : Training at Hyeres Naval Base

Lot of pictures of the 12F Rafale M squadron training at Hyeres air base during November-December 2011
from pics-aeronef

pictures credits: Boubou, Yocool83, Tiger83, Majb, Aurelien83

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Serge Dassault confident about a first Rafale export soon ?

Serge Dassault on I-Tele
Sunday January 15, during a debate about French economic issues on I-Tele, Senator Serge Dassault, president of Groupe Dassault, estimates that  good news about Rafale export could be announced soon. However, he didn't tell  which country could be concerned by this export.
The current 3 main export prospects for the Rafale are India, the UAE and Brazil.

Source : www.itele.fr

Thursday, January 12, 2012

MMRCA, Thursday rumored meeting denied

According to Indian Defense Journalist Shiv Aroor, the Indian MoD would have denied any meeting with EADS and Dassault Aviation on Thursday 12, contradicting the rumors leaked by Indian newspaper LiveMint last Monday.
If the Indian Ministry of defense sticks to its previous announcement, the 3 weeks delay to decide the L1 bidder should expire next week.
So as usual, wait and see...

French defence ministry awards innovative availability contract for Thales equipment on board Rafale fleet

Thales FSO TV camera
Official Thales press relase
10 January 2012 – The French defence ministry’s integrated structure for through-life support of aeronautical equipment (SIMMAD) has awarded Thales the contract to support its equipment on board the Rafale aircraft in service with the French Air Force and French Navy. The ten-year contract, known as MAESTRO, is a renewal of the current through-life support contract and broadens the scope of responsibility to ensure that Thales works more closely with operational personnel to guarantee fleet availability.

Under the terms of the contract, Thales is responsible for supporting the Rafale’s phased array radar, electronic warfare system, avionics (displays, onboard computers, etc.), optronics (OSF front-sector optronics, cameras, etc.) and communication systems.

To guarantee fleet availability, Thales will optimise replacement parts management, logistics management and information flows between government agencies and Thales services, streamline equipment repair processes and deploy technical and logistics advisers to work directly with users on French military bases.

The fixed-price availability contract represents a major innovation in through-life support delivery and coincides with an increase in Rafale flight hours and the need to comply with tougher military airworthiness standards.

Merry Michaux, Vice-President, Military Aerospace Customer Support and Services Managing Director at Thales said: “Thales is particularly proud to have been awarded this new contract, which we see as a sign of renewed confidence in a trusted partner and an endorsement of our continuing commitment to drive efficiency gains in aeronautical equipment support. The innovative concepts and collaborative working methods that we are putting in place on military bases and shared platforms will make a significant contribution to optimising availability of the Rafale fleet and bringing down the aircraft’s cost per flying hour.”

The Smart Care concept implemented in the MAESTRO programme is the basis of a modular approach to availability contracting that Thales also proposes for other equipment types and other aircraft.

* MAESTRO : MAintien en condition opérationnelle des Equipements B et des moyens de Soutien Thales du Rafale Optimisé (Optimised through-life support for Thales Class B equipment and support systems for Rafale)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MMRCA, an announcement could be made on next Thursday

Indian financial newspaper, LiveMint is reporting that the 2 bidders, EADS and Dassault, could be called next Thursday by the Indian Ministry of defense, possibly to reveal the winner of the contest.
According to the newspaper, some rumors (yet, not confirmed by the Indian Mod) would rank the Eurofighter as the lowest bidder. If true, the Eurofighter would technically be the winner unless the Indian government eventually decides that strategic concerns impose to select the L2 bidder.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Qatar and Kuwait waiting for UAE to decide, says Mr. Longuet

Today, our Minister of Defence, Gérard Longuet, while invited by some aerospace journalists, talked about several topics...

Besides the tankers matter, he talked about the situation of Qatar (24 fighters) and Kuwait (18 to 22 fighters), two countries interested in Rafale, under a particular condition : they may pick the Rafale, but UAE have to lead the way. Longuet said the discussion with UAE are still under way, with no disruption, though admitting they are rightfully hard to please, given the complexity of such a deal.

Brazil, on the other hand, would have other priorities, and no short term decision is expected. Meanwhile, Mr Longuet kept on a positive stance about India. That's interesting since at the same time, Typhoon is rumoured to be the L1...

Lastly, Longuet made it clear that up to now, France is far from thinking about cutting Rafale orders.

Sources :
Defense News
Usine Nouvelle

Thursday, January 5, 2012

MMRCA, India order 490 Mica

As part of the Mirage 2000 upgrade program signed in July 2011 with Dassault Aviation, India has just ordered 490 Mica missiles for €950 millions.
As the Rafale also uses the Mica as its primary BVR missile, this event could be interpreted as a good news for the French fighter in the ongoing MMRCA competition.

source : http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Video, Rafale leaves Afghanistan

Afghanistan : désengagement d’une partie du... par ministeredeladefense

The 3 Rafale C that were stationed in Kandahar for 4 months returned to France last November 27. The video reports that 200 shows of force were performed during missions lasting between 5 and 6 hours with 3 to 4 inflight refuelings.  During these 4 months the 3 Rafale logged a total of 1000 flight hours and 500 inflight refuelings. As far as the French fighters are concerned, only 3 Mirage 2000D remains in Afghanistan.

Source : http://www.defense.gouv.fr

Rafale pictures of the day

3 very interesting pictures of the Rafale usual maintenance. The first 2 pictures show the setup used to remove the canopy. on the third one we can see the device necessary to extract the radar and the OSF.
Note : I don't remember where those pictures come from, so if you know who took them, let me know.

Happy New Year 2012 !

Well, everything is in the title :)
If you need a calendar or a screensaver, you may find the official ones released by Dassault Aviation usefull :

Dassault calendar/screensaver

The beautifull drawings are from Romain Hugault, a famous French comic drawer specialized in aviation (and pin up:) art (check his website here)

Video, Carrier night landing

A must see video of a near zero viz landing of a Rafale M on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. No fear !

French Navy pilots qualified for night operations are called "Hiboux", " Owl" and wear a distintive triangular patch (see below)
© RafaleNews

MMRCA, 3 more weeks

Ok, we're back online :) Sorry for the delay !

MMRCA, no Gripen to steal the deal this time...
First things first, let's have a look at the MMRCA contest. So, what's new ?
Well... nothing ! The winner was to be decided before December 31, but apparently the Indian authorities will not reveal their choice before at least 3 more weeks which should be around January 20.
The reason for the delay is not clear. Tthey may need more time to fine tune their calculations in order to find out which of the 2 offers is the best one.Political preassure from both sides may also slow down the selection process. On December 30, the governements  of the 4 countries producing the Eurofigther (Germany, UK, Italy, Spain) have issued a confidential letter to India Prime Minister to support the Typhoon offer. Whether it is good or bad news for the Rafale is difficult to assess. It could be interpreted as a desperate Eurofighter move in order to reverse a pro-Rafale atmosphere. But it could also mean that the Typhoon is leading and that letter would be the final formality before signing the deal.

I personaly think that such a letter is quite odd as it is very late in the process. The fact that it would be intended to assure the support of the 4 countries is also strange : The political strength of Germany and UK which are marketing the Typhoon in india would not be enough ? Why did they feel the necessity to rassure the indian authorities about their support of the Eurofighter program ? Could it be that India is doubting that the Eurofighter partners will actually put on the table all the fundings required to get a true multirole aircraft ?

Anyway, we will soon know. A third possibility for the MMRCA delay could be related to budgetary issues. Indeed, India economy is not at its best right now : India currency is quite weak and the 2 MMRCA offers are said to be higher than expected. Therefore some sources think that India would be looking for a suitable financial framework before signing. This could mean a reduction of the number of aircraft ordered, a delivery schedule spread on more time or, in the worst scenario, the cancellation of the MMRCA.