French Rafale fighter jets broke their record for the longest flight without landing, having spent 12 hours in the air while heading to the island of Tahiti, according to the local broadcaster TNTV.
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“We [France] are the only European country that is capable of such flights at a distance of 17,000 kilometers [10,500 miles] from our bases,” Maj. Pierrick, air-to-air refueling operator, was quoted as saying by the media outlet.
Seven planes of the French Air Force, including three Rafale fighters, took off from France and reached Tahiti in 39 hours with a stopover in California. According to the broadcaster, the record time required seven air-to-air refuelings.
This also proves that France can act independently in the Indo-Pacific and can support allies if necessary, Pierrick added.
Dassault Aviation – the makers of Rafale jets have seen their business grow manifolds off late. Recently, Croatia signed a deal to purchase 12 Rafale multirole fighter jets for $1.2 billion where it overcame bids from Israel, Sweden and the United States.
Prior to that, France secretly signed a $4.5 billion contract to deliver 30 Rafale fighter jets to Egypt. According to reports, at the request of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi, the two countries signed three contracts, one of which concerns the procurement of 30 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The other two contracts, worth 200 million euros, involve MBDA missiles and Safran Electronics & Defense equipment.
Earlier this year, the French government placed an order with Dassault Aviation for the purchase of 12 new Rafale fighter jets to replace the second-hand planes sold to Greece earlier.
“Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, signed a contract for the sale of 12 Rafale aircraft with Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces. These aircraft will replace the 12 Rafales of the French Air and Space Force (FASF) sold to the Hellenic Air Force [Greek military air forces],” the company’s statement read.
In 2016, France and India had signed a pact for 36 Rafale jets which was signed at the rate of €7.8 billion.
The Indian Rafales come with certain critical capabilities not offered to other countries, such as the ‘Hammer’ precision-guided munitions, helmet-mounted sights and targeting systems, cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases including Leh etc.