UAE Examines Rafale Configuration
* December 14, 2009
ABU DHABI [MENL] -- The United Arab Emirates has been negotiating over the price and configuration of the advanced Rafale fighter-jet.
Industry sources said France's Dassault Aviation has presented a series of Rafale configuration options to the UAE. The sources said the two sides have not agreed on either aircraft subsystems or the price.
"The UAE is interested in Rafale, but wants a plane that is significantly better than what it has now," an industry source said. "This would involve replacing radar and other vital subsystems [in Rafale] as well as additional R&D [research and development]."
The UAE has been examining an offer by Dassault for the sale of up to 60
Rafale C fighters deployed by the French Air Force. Dassault, which envisions a staged process, has requested as much as $10 billion for the aircraft as well as weapons and support. France was said to already supply about half of the equipment in the UAE military.
The negotiations have included the UAE's request for an enhanced AESA radar, upgraded M-88 engines and air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. The sources said the two sides appear to have resolved most of the issues.
The Dassault offer was based on a unit price of $100 million per Rafale.
The aircraft, however, would require a separate support infrastructure despite the UAE fleet of Mirage 2000-9 fighters, also produced by Dassault.
France has already agreed to reacquire the Mirage 2000-9 fleet in any Rafale sale with the UAE, the sources said
. The UAE has a fleet of more than 60 Mirage 2000-9 and upgraded 2000-5 aircraft.
The sources said Rafale's chief competitor has been the F-16 multi-role fighter by Lockheed Martin
. The UAE has been deploying 80 F-16 Block 60 aircraft as part of a $6.8 billion deal.
"The UAE Air Force is quite pleased with the F-16, and the feeling is that with all the money already invested in logistics infrastructure, the F-16 fleet should be expanded," the source said.
In May 2009, Dassault chief executive officer Charles Edelstenne accompanied French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the UAE for the opening of France's first military base in the Gulf. The French military presence was expected to include Rafale fighters at the UAE's Al Dhafra air base.
"The French base could be the key to any UAE decision to buy Rafale," the source said. "Dassault could promise to share Rafale logistics and maintenance with the French Air Force in the UAE and maintain constant training in Abu Dhabi."