For the Dassault Rafale combat jet, the French intervention in Mali provided another chance to demonstrate its multirole capability. Starting with a 3,400-mile interdiction mission (AI) launched from France on the night of January 13, up to six aircraft subsequently flew daily from their deployed base at N’Djamena, Chad, also performing reconnaissance and close-air-support (CAS) missions. Six of them are still there.
The laser-guided version of the Sagem AASM (armament air-sol modulaire) air-launched “smart” weapon was qualified last month by the French air armaments agency (DGA) at the Cazaux flight-test center, and will soon enter service in France with operational squadrons of Rafale combat aircraft. It is intended primarily for use against mobile targets. Meanwhile, the French air force has revealed details of recent attack missions over Mali when up to 12 INS/GPS-guided versions of the AASM were salvo-fired within one minute against preplanned targets, to achieve maximum surprise.
Last December, Dassault Aviation named Eric Trappier as its new chairman and CEO. The 52-year old Frenchman, who was previously the group’s international executive vice president, succeeded Charles Edelstenne when he retired on January 8 after more than half a century of service to the Dassault group.
The United Arab Emirates Air Force has decided to buy another 25 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 fighters. The deal is worth $4 to $5 billion, according to a senior Pentagon official who briefed reporters in Washington. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, will also be receiving unspecified “advanced standoff weapons” for its fighters, added the same official. The sales have not yet been formally notified to the U.S. Congress, although the Pentagon had consulted with key legislators there, according to the official.
Major fighter manufacturers displayed their wares this week at the 2013 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition in Malaysia in anticipation of that country’s pending requirement for new fighters. Five aircraft considered contenders for the program–the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab JAS-39 Gripen, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18F and Sukhoi Su-30MKM–participated in the aerial display.
Faced with growing costs in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, Denmark is reviewing its options for a new fighter and has invited Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen E) to submit information for alternatives. A decision is due in 2015. Dassault (Rafale) may have been approached, but at the time of writing appeared unlikely to respond. The company has a history of not bidding on programs that it calculates have little chance of success.
MBDA has confirmed that production rounds of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile are scheduled for delivery before year-end. However, MBDA managing director Steve Wadey would not disclose which air force will be the first to get the new missile, which MBDA UK claims represents a “step change in the air-to-air world.” AIN reported last year that French Rafale and Swedish Gripen fighters would be flying operational Meteors ahead of the four Eurofighter nations.
Defense contractors flocked to Bangalore for the Aero India show this week, even as the Indian government confirmed that the years of plenty might be over. Defense minister A.K. Anthony confirmed that his spending would be cut in the fiscal year that starts in April, although not on “operational preparedness.”
A good part of Dassault Aviation’s profile at this week’s Aero India show is based on its Rafale fighter, which was last year selected for the country’s new Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement. But the French manufacturer also has big business aviation ambitions in India, as is evidenced by the pair of Falcon 7X trijets it has on display this week in Bangalore, along with a Falcon 900LX and a 2000S.
India’s Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) has confirmed that it has abandoned plans to jointly develop and produce the Kaveri military aircraft engine solely with France’s Snecma.