Robins mentioned RAFALE International's (the consortium of French companies responsible for the Rafale) business dealings with Canadian defense and aerospace firms to the tune of $4.3 billion. Robins then went on about Dassault submission to Canada's National Fighter Procurement Secretariat, placing a high emphasis on Canadian economic benefits if it chooses the Rafale over the F-35.
Dassault has promised a guaranteed 100% economic offset on the purchase price, common for most large-scale military purchases. There is no offset guarantee with the F-35 however, merely the opportunity for Canadian companies to bid on JSF contracts; this means we can win big, lose big, or make even... Depending on the whims of the market.
Dassault also has offered something completely different from what Canada would have with the F-35; "the transfer of all intellectual property and technology in the RAFALE to Canada - with no restrictions". This means we get to service, upgrade, and modify the Rafale as we see fit. A Canadian Rafale would be serviced in Canada, by Canadians.
This is different to the F-35, whose source code is completely under wraps by Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon. This means all future upgrades and major updates has to be handled by them. If we need any Canada specific modifications, we need to pay them and hope it gets done without too many delays.
|Rafale vs. F-35. This time... It's personal.|
The Rafale is a damn good fighter. It checks off all the right boxes: Supercruise, maneuverability, IRST, AESA radar, a good payload, and a very admirable range. It also offers the perceived safety advantage of twin engines and it uses the "probe-and-drogue" method of refueling currently in use by the RCAF.
But the Rafale isn't perfect. I've written a about a few of the Rafale's issues before. It use of French sourced engines, missiles, and avionics might not be palatable to an RCAF used to American sourced weaponry. There have been some criticisms toward its cockpit, as well as its lack of helmet mounted cueing system. The good news is, under Dassault's deal, Canada has the freedom to modify the Rafale as it sees fit. That includes modifying it to use the current stockpile of Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles used by the CF-18. It also opens the possibility of Canadian modifications being marketed to other Rafale users (although this is a pretty small club at the present).
When it comes down to it, I still believe that the Rafale is a long-shot for Canada. The French government simply doesn't have the same political pull in Canada as the Americans (F-35 and F-18E/F) or the British, Germans, Spanish, and Italians (Eurofighter Typhoon). The Rafale hasn't exactly been successful on the export market so far, with only India making a serious offer.
Dassault's offer is hard to ignore, however. At the very least, it serves to illustrate what the competing fighter manufacturers should be offering. Full industrial offsets, open source platforms, and a proven design.
Maybe Canada should announce a full-blown fighter competition before the French taunt us a second time.