Gerard Longuet maintained that the Rafale — which has long failed to win any contracts abroad and is currently used solely by the French armed forces — is an “excellent plane.” However, he acknowledged the Rafale is handicapped by its price, which is higher than its U.S. rival.
Much anticipated sales to Brazil and Libya failed to materialize, but Longuet stressed that the Rafale remains in the running for deals with United Arab Emirates and India. Dassault is up against European consortium Eurofighter for the $11 billion Indian deal for 126 multi-role combat aircraft.
Last month, Switzerland announced it had opted against the Rafale and planned to buy 22 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden’s Saab AB for an estimated 3.1 billion francs ($3.37 billion). The Swiss Cabinet said cost was a factor in its decision to go with for the Gripen.
Asked about the Swiss deal, Longuet said the “Swiss army was leaning toward the Rafale,” but the government decided the Gripen “sufficed” to meet the needs of a neutral country where jets are not used in combat missions.
In service for the French Air Force since 2006, the Rafale has been flying air support roles in Afghanistan since 2007 and saw extensive action in the recent NATO campaign in Libya, which was built solely on airpower.
Longuet added that in the event of a production halt, existing Rafale jets would continue to be serviced till the end of their 40-year lives....