Dassault-UAE may team up on Rafale bid
UPI - Published: May 12, 2010 at 9:37
PARIS, May 12 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates and France are considering teaming up in developing a more capable new generation of Dassault Rafale combat aircraft.
The potential project comes hot on the heels of Dassault's designs to delivery upgraded Rafale models to the United Arab Emirates by the end of 2014 following an agreement which aims to be reached by the end of the year.
"The conversation has moved forward from buying the Rafale to how to co-develop the next generation Rafale," Defense News reported citing an anonymous defense source. "The prospective new model would meet the requirement of the United Arab Emirates and take the plane to the next level." the source said.
The talks are the first signs of a co-development initiative with a foreign partner and customer. They also pave the way for possible provision of the new F4 version model to the French air force and navy. The F-3 standard is just entering service and is due to fly until 2018 and 2020.
It remained unclear whether the talks would include a buyback of the Mirage 2000 to 2009 fleet that has been flown by the Gulf emirate.
"It remains a hypothesis among others," a French official told Defense News.
The French company Dassault Aviation is the prime contractor for the Rafale. Thales builds the electronic systems and Snemca constructs the M88 engine.
The twin-engine fighter Rafale is considered Dassault's crown jewel in France's arms exports efforts. Its manufacturer is bidding for lucrative deals in Brazil and India, making pitches also to Libya and Kuwait.
Talks over the co-development scheme center on the systems and engine that the upgraded aircraft would be equipped with.
"The main upgrades are said to be an active electronically scanned array, frontal sector optronics and an electronic warfare suite -- systems applied by Thales -- and a 9-ton-thrust M88 engine, up-rated from the 7.5-ton engine that powers the French air force and navy Rafales," Defense News reported.
An estimated 50 French executives were in Abu Dhabu last month as part of the talks, Dassault said.
"We are working flat out on negotiating the contract and ancillary contracts," an unnamed company official told Defense News. "There are, effectively, discussions between the two governments on how to finance the additional functionality."
Should the negotiations be finalized, the joint development project is expected to take years.
Dassault has neither confirmed or denied that talks on the United Arab Emirates' purchase of the Rafale planes would also include the joint development effort.