French Air Force Chief Confident OF Rafale Victory In Indian MMRCA Contest

Gen Jean-Paul Paloméros, chief of staff of the French air force,
is confident about the Dassault Rafale’s prospects in major
international competitions, and partially attributes the aircraft’s
previous losses in Singapore and South Korea to politics.

“I’ve
flown in the Rafale and I know what it can do,” said Paloméros, speaking
to Flightglobal at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace
exhibition in Malaysia late last month. “Rafale was designed since
conception as a multi-role aircraft,” he added.

According to
Paloméros, the Rafale is well suited to handle emerging air-to-air and
air-to-ground threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Rafale has
very high manoueverability,” he said. “It will be getting an AESA
[active electronically scanned array] radar and it has good weapons. It
will also receive the MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile, offering extra
range against any types of threats.”

The AESA version of the
Thales RBE2 radar will be introduced into Rafale in 2013, when French
forces begin receiving the fourth block of production aircraft. The
Meteor is still undergoing development, but should be deployed on the
Rafale after the middle of the decade.

Paloméros is confident the
Rafale will emerge triumphant in India’s medium multi-role combat
aircraft competition for 126 fighters, where it is on a shortlist with
the Eurofighter Typhoon. Indian media reports suggest the decision is
imminent, possibly before the end of 2011.

“The Indians are
working on their decision,” he said. “We have close contacts with India
owing to the [Dassault] Mirage 2000. They are more than happy, and are
upgrading these aircraft. They know French industry very well. I’m
confident in this competition. They are real experts and did a great job
evaluating the aircraft.”

He added the Rafale is also well suited
for Malaysia’s 18-aircraft multi-role combat aircraft competition. A
Royal Malaysian Air Force team visited France this year to conduct
flight trials in the type. Paloméros said although the weather was
“horrible”, the visitors liked the aircraft and gained the opportunity
to work with Rafale in challenging conditions.

As for the design’s
failure so far to win a foreign buyer, Paloméros said: “In Singapore
the Rafale was in the final selection against the Boeing F-15, as was
the case in South Korea’s F-X I competition. The F-15 was a good choice
for both countries, but its selection had a lot to do with politics as
well.”

He said the French air force is working hard to help pin
down a Rafale sale in the United Arab Emirates, which recently stunned
the defence aerospace industry by issuing a request for a proposal
linked to the Eurofighter Typhoon and also spoke with Boeing and
Lockheed Martin. The UAE has a long-running requirement to replace 60
Mirage 2000-9s.