Financial results for the first half of 2010 appeared to suggest that Dassault Aviation has begun to reverse the severe downward trend its Falcon business jet operations have endured over the past 24 months or so.
In the last few weeks the Embraer KC-390 jet tanker/transport program has gained four international partners, who have expressed their intentions to purchase the aircraft and to participate in its development and manufacture. Following the announcement at Farnborough in July that the Brazilian air force would initially acquire 28 KC-390s, the latest announcements raise prospective sales to 54.
During the Farnborough airshow in late July, the Brazilian air force announced its intention to acquire 28 Embraer KC-390 twinjet tanker/transports. First flight is expected in 2014, with service entry planned before the end of 2015.
Sweden is advancing its own Gripen development path alongside that of the Gripen Next Generation aircraft intended for export, which is currently awaiting the outcome of major competitions in Brazil and India. The Swedish air force is now talking openly about a JAS 39E/F version that would draw on many of the technologies being applied to the NG program.
Announced last week was the first successful test of the 250-kilogram laser-guided version of Sagem’s AASM modular weapon. The laser AASM was launched from a Rafale and hit a target at the Biscarrosse range 25 kilometers away. AASM versions already qualified are the basic inertial/GPS guided bomb, and a version that adds imaging infrared.
Armed forces in Europe are bracing themselves for severe cutbacks as governments tackle budget deficit problems. The scale of the cuts is evident in a couple of proposals made public last week. Germany’s defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has tabled a plan that saves €9.3 billion ($11.7 billion) in the long term, with current fleets and acquisition programs hit hard.
Attempts by India to fast-track the procurement process for its 126-aircraft Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft requirement have come unstuck as the evaluation process has taken far longer than initially expected.
Dassault has reduced the scope of the part-time working arrangement it implemented in September last year in four factories in France. Some 1,400 employees are affected in two factories now, with little impact on their salaries. Company management expects to give the workers their next update in July.
Brazil’s purchase of 36 new fighters has pitted the air force’s preference for the Saab Gripen, backed by a 10-month technical report, against a presidential preference for the Dassault Rafale as part of a “strategic alliance” with France. Second in the air force’s ranking was the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet. According to the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, France reduced the cost of the Rafale package from $12.2 billion to $8.2 billion.
Continued tensions in the Far East and southern Asia are ensuring that the region remains a major sales battleground for the world’s fighter houses. At stake is the sale of several hundred new combat aircraft in the coming years as air arms seek to modernize their forces or, in the case of countries such as Japan and Singapore, stay ahead of the regional threat.