Monday, December 16, 2013

Looks like the Rafale is out of the running in Brazil.


A decision still seems to be a ways off for for Brazil's F-X2 fighter competition.  Intended to replace its interim second hand Mirage 2000Cs (Brazil's Mirage IIIs have been retired), Brazil has been considering the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet, and the Saab Gripen E/F.  It now looks like the Rafale will no longer be considered due to price concerns.

This is bad news for Dassault, which hasn't seen its deal with India move as smooth at it would like, and French production has been slowed for budgetary reasons.  The Rafale is on the list of potential fighter choices for Canada and other countries, but its increasingly looking like a longshot when pitted against industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and the Eurofighter consortium.

The Rafale would have been a great fit for Brazil.  Transition from its current Mirage fleet would have been a snap, and the Rafale M would make a great contender to replace aging A-4 Skyhawks in use on Brazil's Sãu Paulo aircraft carrier.

Boeing Advanced Super Hornet 

As is the case with modern times, however, cost is the ultimate trump card.  Both the Gripen and the Super Hornet are far cheaper to procure than the Rafale, and the Gripen particularly would be cheaper to operate.  The Super Hornet is already cleared to operate from aircraft carriers however, so it could be the favorite if Brazil wishes a common fleet.  One strike against it, however, is recent political fallout over NSA spying allegations.

Saab's proposed "Sea Gripen".

Then again, Saab has been looking for a reason to modify the Gripen for carrier use.  Although not initially developed with carrier operations in mind.  The Gripen's short runway requirements and small size make it a fairly easy conversion, according to Saab.

Could bad news for Dassault mean good news for Saab or Boeing?  Could the Rafale's dismissal from Brazil's F-X2 lead to development of the Sea Gripen?  Or could it help Boeing keep Super Hornet production running just a little longer?

Then again, with the possibility of Boeing shutting down Super Hornet production by 2015, if Brazil's F-X2 decision takes much longer, it may be left with choosing the Gripen simply by default.

5 comments:

  1. I agree : with an endangered F/A-18 production and a too much expensive Rafale (and probably the same story for Typhoon or F-35) for Brazil budget, the Gripen could be the last man standing!

    I don't even think a navalized version is really a priority for Brazil. The thing is, a decision is unlikely this year, and maybe not until 2015 or 2016. So, we're not at the end of this incredible story.

    Additional details about Rafale :

    - In fact, that's not the production that is slowed, but the amount of Rafale ordered each year for French Air Force and Navy. Production rate was actually slowed few years ago : at the time, that was 15 or 18 units/year. But without export orders, France had to carry the burden alone. So, production was slowed at 11 units/year. Now, even though France has still roughly 60 Rafale to receive, we don't want to get 11 of them each year for the 6 years coming, in order to put the money of a limited defense budget somewhere else. But industrials explained 11 units/year is the very minimum rate : if it comes under, production is not sustainable (for skills conservation and price reasons). So, it was decided to receive 26 Rafale in the 2014-2019 timeframe and to make the bet (wish?) that export orders will come to fill the 40 units gap. Yeah, French are crazy.

    - Did you see the price quoted in the article? $4 billions for 36 Rafale. With the very bad euros-dollars conversion, that makes it €2.9 billions, or €80 million/aircraft. Considering the €2.6 billions Switzerland will pay for 22 Gripen and the €4.5 planned by the Netherlands, that's not so bad. So... for $8 billions, could Canada get 65 Rafale and integration of AMRAAM and Sidewinder? But hey, that's only rumors!

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  2. I'm surprised production is continuing at only 11 Rafales a year. That seems terribly low. Boeing needs to keep the Super Hornet running at 24/year to keep it priced as low as it is.

    I have no doubt Canada could get 65 Rafales for $9 billion all in. I doubt weapons integration would be that difficult, but does add a slight amount of extra risk. As always, the biggest stumbling block for the Rafale is politics. Canada's military has never bought much French equipment.

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  3. You bet! Things are simple : One Rafale per month, with the factory closed on August (jokes session open about France and the "5 weeks of holidays per year" thing :-P ). The massive domestic production is the main reason of the U.S leadership on export defense markets. I don't know production rates for Gripen and Typhoon, but I guess that's not particularly bigger.



    About France-Canada defense ties, that's true they are pretty weak : in Europe, UK seems a more logical choice, we saw it with the submarines... Ok, I stop here the taunting ;-)
    In this regard, I note with regret that France is unable to propose ambitious partnership (beyond technological transfer) to some high profile countries : Brazil or India for emerging countries, but also Australia, South Korea or Canada. We KNOW that U.S influence is huge (overwhelming?) in these countries, but that's no reason to make unremarkable offers.

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  4. The Super Hornet production lines not slated to end until the end of 2016, not mid 2015 like this article says. The USN ordered 21 additional Growlers earlier this year, and another 12 will head to the RAAF, giving it 33 airframes for the year.

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  5. It's not a matter of production, it's a matter of orders. Given the lead time between an order and actual production, Boeing is going to need additional orders soon.


    Boeing's only other option is to continue production on its own dime, an expensive proposition with no real buyers in line.

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