French aerospace firm Dassault has won the order to supply Brazil with 36 Rafale aircraft. This was confirmed to StratPost today by sources at the company, after an announcement made during the visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy to Brazil for their Independence Day celebrations about the initiation of negotiations for the sale.
While there were some reports that the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had signaled that the negotiations do not rule out the purchase of another aircraft, it was independently confirmed to StratPost by Dassault that the French firm will indeed be getting the order. “No, no, it is confirmed. We won on the basis of the technical evaluation,” said a source at Dassault. He however clarified that final price negotiations are still to take place and refused to speculate on the value of the final order.
The other contenders in the race were Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Swedish Saab’s Gripen. Earlier reports had indicated President da Silva to be favoring the Rafale because of the provision for complete transfer of technology without conditions. In comparison, Gripen, the cheapest aircraft, was reported to be unable to offer complete and unconditional transfer of technology because of the incorporation of US-made components. Also, the Super Hornet’s life cycle cost was reported to be more than the Rafale’s, even though the latter is the most expensive aircraft of the three.
While the Brazilian contest also included the F-16, the Eurofighter and the Sukhoi-30 as well, these three aircraft were weeded out in the first round. Interestingly, except for the Sukhoi, five of the six contenders for the Brazilian order are also part of the race for the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) order of the Indian Air Force (IAF). “The Brazilians had a different structure for their contest, with initial evaluations and elimination of three aircraft in the first round and then technical evaluation in the second round. We came up on top in the technical evaluation in the second round,” said the source, also pointing out, “In India, all the six aircraft are being tried out in the same round. Single-engined being compared with double-engined. But the parameters of the technical evaluation (in the Brazilian contest and the Indian MMRCA race) are quite similar.”
While the structure of the Brazilian contest was different from the way the MMRCA contest is structured, there seems to be little question that Rafale will now come into the MMRCA trials with the confident afterglow of a winner. “Of course, it is definitely a positive sign,” said the source, adding, “The Americans had been pointing out how the Rafale hasn’t been getting export orders, but we have won in Brazil on the basis of our technical evaluation. This has happened earlier with the Mirage as well.”
France is also looking to export the Rafale to Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
Incidentally, at the moment the IAF is conducting trials for Lockheed Martin’s F-16. The MMRCA race consists of Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Saab’s Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon and the Russian MiG-35.
Brazil has already decided to buy five French Scorpene submarines for the protection of their offshore oil wells, one of which will be nuclear powered, as well as 50 military helicopters. While reports say the French will also be buying 10-12 Brazilian military transport aircraft in return, Dassault refused to comment on whether the Rafale might have had an edge because of the extensive military commerce between Brazil and France, pleading ignorance of the details of the other defense contracts between the two countries.
StratPost has also been informed that the transfer of technology will be ‘partial’ and will suit ‘whatever they (the Brazilians) have asked for’. Also, while there may be assembly of parts in Brazil and perhaps even some manufacture, it has also been indicated that ‘it would not make economic sense to set up an entire assembly line in Brazil for only 36 aircraft’. “While Brazil has a sound aviation industry, it would not be economical. However, if there are other deals happening, whereby France and Brazil decide to jointly manufacture and export the aircraft, it might be possible. But quite often assembly of knocked-down kits is done locally as the aircraft may not be permitted to fly in,” said the source.