The French Rafale jets are roaring and soaring! After inking deals with India, Egypt, Croatia, and Greece, French firm Dassault Aviation looks set to sign a contract with the Swiss Air Force for Rafale fighter jets over F-35 stealth aircraft, as per reports.
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According to Asia Times, the Swiss Air Force launched the ‘Air 2030’ tender last year to acquire new fighter jets. The country is expected to buy 30-40 jets at an estimated cost of $7 billion by 2025.
Switzerland intends to use the jets in air policing missions, and the new jets will be inducted in the place of McDonnell Douglas F/A -18C/D Hornets and Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II antiques, which the country is currently using.
Apart from the Dassault Rafale, three other contenders in the fray are — the Lockheed Martin F-35, the Boeing F/A -18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
A twin-jet fighter aircraft, the Rafale can be used both from an aircraft carrier and a land base. It can be used in combat missions like air defense, making in-depth air strikes, aerial scouting missions, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
It was introduced to the service of the French Navy in 2004 and that of the French Air force in 2006.
The Swiss Interest in Rafale Jets
The Asia Times report suggests the cost of the American jets may have come as a major hurdle for their acquisition.
Reportedly, Swiss politicians had initially favored buying the Boeing F-18 and the Lockheed Martin F-35 but later changed their minds. Leader of the Socialist group Roger Nordmann was quoted in the report as saying, “Buying the American F-35s, which are the most expensive, is excluded.”
The Federal Office of Armaments or the Amasuisse, procured air surveillance system Sky View from the French firm Thales. It is believed that the Swiss may go ahead with consistency in their surveillance systems and aircraft.
Thus after the French firm Thales, French firm Dassault Aviation may be favored. Also, Priska Seiler Graf, a member of the Security Policy Commission, which is expected to have the final say on the decision of the aircraft, had only mentioned Rafale.
Before Switzerland, Croatia, India, Greece, and Egypt had signed deals with Dassault Aviation.
The Rafale jets are a major defense acquisition for India in over two decades since the country acquired the Russian Sukhoi jets. The aircraft are being delivered in batches after an inter-governmental agreement was signed between India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters for 7.87 billion euros (Rs 59,000 crore) in 2016.
In September 2020, the first batch of five Rafale jets was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF). So far, IAF has received 23 aircraft from Dassault and the full delivery of 36 jets is expected to be completed by April 2022, as Defense Minister Rajnath Singh announced.
IAF has formally inducted the #Rafale aircraft in 17 Squadron 'Golden Arrows' today, at Air Force Station, Ambala. The ceremony also marks #Rafale’s full operational entry into IAF.
Glimpses of the Rafale in action with IAF. pic.twitter.com/WfohU5vMET
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 10, 2020
The first Rafale squadron has been established at the Ambala air force station in the northern Indian state of Punjab, while the second base will be at Hasimara base in West Bengal, close to the China border in the eastern sector.
The procurement of the Rafale jets did not come as a surprise, as IAF fleet was in need of urgent reinforcements. As reported by The Eurasian Times earlier, the nuclear capability of the Rafale had been a major reason for India to choose the French jets.
The report mentioned that the Rafale is considered similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon, the European fighter jet. The Eurofighter Typhoon is jointly manufactured by Germany, Spain, Britain, and Italy, which meant multiple clearances.
In the end, the Indian government chose to acquire the Rafale jets from France. Its capability to serve as an omni-role fighter, and nuclear-deterrence missions made Rafale favorable to India.
The Egyptian Deal
In May, Egypt confirmed its order of 30 Rafale jets. This order follows the purchase of 24 Rafale jets by Egypt in 2015. The latest deal is worth $4.8 billion and will be funded through a 10-year loan. Speaking about the contract, the French Defense Minister Florence Parly was quoted as saying the deal “reinforces the strategic and military partnership between France and Egypt”.
After Saudi Arabia and India, Egypt is the world’s third-largest arms importer, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Indonesia & Croatia
Indonesia is also set to acquire the Rafale jets once the country’s President puts his stamp of approval. Recently, the country turned down an offer to acquire F-16 jets from the US, after the US denied selling the F-35 fighters to the Southeast Asian country. According to reports, Indonesia plans to buy 36 Rafale jets.
Croatia is acquiring Rafales as part of its defense modernization plan. The country is in the process of adding new as well as second-hand aircraft to replace the Soviet-era aircraft in its inventory.
The Eurasian Times reported earlier that for its Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft program, Croatia issued tenders and in May 2021 announced the selection of the Dassault Rafale F3-R. As part of the acquisition, Croatia will receive 12 second-hand aircraft for $1.2 billion. The first six aircraft will be received by Croatia in 2024, and the rest in 2025.
Last year, France had approved the sale of 18 Rafale fighters to Greece in a deal worth €1.7 billion. Greece will receive 12 second-hand and six new Rafales and the first aircraft will be received in 2021, The Eurasian Times reported.
The Rafale fighter jets will replace the aging fleet of Mirage 2000 in the HAF. The Dassault fighters will be equipped with Meteor air-to-air missiles along with re-receipts, or even purchases of new pieces from existing weapons such as Exocet, Scalp, MICA, said a Greek media report.