Over the past decade or so, Dassault Aviation has raised the eyebrows of some business aircraft industry analysts. Why, some asked, didn’t the French airframer follow Bombardier and Gulfstream in the charge to develop an ultra-long-range corporate jet? Why, others wondered, hasn’t Dassault matched the offerings of Cessna and Raytheon in the ever-expanding small and midsize business jet sectors?
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) of Taiwan recently displayed during public days at several ROCAF bases a new configuration of its Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), with three 250-pound bombs on the centreline. Taiwan wants to upgrade the ROCAF to meet a growing military threat from mainland China, but progress has been slow.
Fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls have been commonplace in fighters and Airbus airliners for years, but the technology has remained out of reach for all but a handful of business jet pilots. The notable exception in business aviation is the Airbus Corporate Jetliner, a descendent of the A320, which in 1988 became the first airliner with fly-by-wire controls and sidesticks to enter production.
Gil Michielin, v-p and general manager of Thales Commercial Aircraft Solutions, has been appointed president of EUROCAE, the European air transport electronic systems and equipment standardization body. With 20 years’ experience in the industry, Michielin has worked on programs ranging from the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters to the A380 and 787 airliners.
As well as providing the avionics equipment for France’s high-profile Rafale program, Thales is active in the fighter upgrade business. As new-build combat aircraft programs become fewer and further between, so the military aircraft upgrade business has increased dramatically.
In the fighter aircraft business, there’s no substitute for combat experience, if you want to impress potential customers. The Dassault Rafale has now dropped bombs in anger as part of NATO’s stabilization effort in Afghanistan.
Flight training provider CAE SimuFlite won’t hold the grand opening ceremony commemorating the start of operations at its Northeast Training Center in Morristown, N.J., until this month, but pilots have already been strapping into the brand-new Falcon 7X simulator for initial training.
Falcon business jet orders and deliveries last year decreased by 44 percent and 26 percent, respectively, according to Dassault chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne. At the company’s headquarters in Saint-Cloud, France, in mid-February, Edelstenne said orders for 40 Falcons were received last year, down from 72 in 2002. Deliveries fell last year to 49 Falcons, from 66 in 2002.
With one carrier-borne squadron already operational, deliveries to the French air force well under way, an impressive range of weapons already qualified and significant upgrades now funded, the Rafale program comes to the 2005 Paris Air Show in very good shape. Together with partners Snecma and Thales, Dassault has produced another warplane that is the pride of all France.
During a presentation at Le Bourget on Tuesday, Lockheed Martin officials and a panel of both present and former customers extolled the virtues of the lightweight fighter that is still operating 32 years after it was originally designed.