French-bashers around the world are having a lousy year. After Egypt and India placed orders for 24 and 36 Rafale fighter jets, respectively, Qatar has now become the third country to order these potent fighter aircraft. As Le Figaro (owned by the Dassault family, which also owns the Dassault Aviation company which manufactures the Rafales) has reported:
“François Hollande en a recu la confirmation, mercredi 29 avril, par Cheikh Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani, émir du Qatar. Doha passe une commande ferme pour 24 avions de combat Rafale à la France. Un communiqué de l’Elysée a rendu publique cette bonne nouvelle ce jeudi 30 avril. Le contrat sera signé, lundi 4 mai à Doha, entre le Qatar et Dassault Aviation, le constructeur de l’appareil français, en présence du président de la République et de son ministre de la défense, Jean-Yves le Drian. Il porte également sur l’acquisition d’armements modernes (missiles air-air longue portée Meteor, missiles de croisière Scalp et bombes guidées air-sol AASM) ainsi que sur la formation, dispensée par l’Armée de l’air française à Mont de Marsans, de 36 pilotes Qatari et d’une centaine de mécaniciens spécialisés.”
This order brings the total tally of foreign orders for the Rafale up to 84 aircraft and France’s total weapons exports for this year to 12 bn euros, not counting the Indian order for Rafales and the Polish order for 70 Eurocopter Caracal helicopters. This alone will make France the world’s third arms exporter in the world this year.
It is interesting to note that Egypt, India, and Qatar all operate the Mirage 2000 – Dassault Aviation’s previous frontline fighter. Which will make integrating the Rafale into their air forces easier, as their pilots and ground personnel are all already familiar with Dassault fighters and will need only minimal retraining. Their base infrastructure, fit to accommodate Mirage 2000s, will also accommodate Rafales easily.
If the current trend continues and more deals (including those with India and Poland) are signed, French arms exports in 2015 will reach a record sum of 15 bn EUR, thus surpassing those of Russia, making France the second-largest arms exporter in the world.
Yes, you’ve read that correctly. France, a country of just 66 mn people, is the world’s third-largest arms exporter and on track to becoming the world’s second-largest, trailing only the US.
This is only the beginning of May, but it’s clear that 2015 will go down in history as a terrible year for French-bashers all around the world, and indeed for all those who wish France ill. It’s also a very lousy year for all those naysayers and fatalists in Europe – including in France itself – who claim that France must dissolve itself into a European superstate because she can no longer play any meaningful role on the world stage alone. These three successes of the French defense industry – and the above statistics – completely belie their claims.
This is likewise a very lousy year for all those Rafale-bashers who predicted the Rafale would hardly obtain any export orders, and certainly not in Qatar, including Richard Aboulafia, the VP of the Teal Group and a self-appointed “expert” on military aviation.
Not only has he claimed that France would not win an order for Rafales from Qatar, he has even falsely claimed that:
“Both of these planes [i.e. the Rafale and the Typhoon] are upper middle/heavy weight twinjets. The market for beasts like these is extremely limited.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Firstly, the Rafale and the Typhoon are NOT heavyweight fighters – they are middleweights. A heavyweight fighter is an aircraft like the F-15, F-22, F-35, Flanker, PAK FA, or J-20. THESE are heavyweights – not the Rafale, and not the Typhoon.
The Rafale’s MTOW is 24,500 kg (54,000 lb); the F-15’s is 30,845 kg (68,000 lb); the J-11 Sinoflanker’s is 33,000 kg, i.e. 73,000 lb. The F-22 Raptor is even heavier than that, at 38,000 kg (83,500 lb)!
Secondly, the market for the Rafale and the Typhoon is far from “extremely limited.” Between them, these two fighters have already been sold in hundreds of copies to 6 countries, with more orders coming. The Typhoon has been procured by Austria, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The Rafale, as stated above, has been selected by Egypt, India, and Qatar – with more orders being within Dassault’s reach, in Canada, Malaysia, and potentially elsewhere around the world. On top of that, the Indian MRCA program continues, so Paris can count on selling an additional 126 Rafales to New Delhi.
Richard Aboulafia is not an “expert.” He’s an ignoramus – just like wannabe “experts” Hans M. Kristensen, Robert Norris, and Jeffrey Lewis are nuclear weapons ignorami.
In any event, this is shaping up to be a TERRIBLE year for French-bashers all around the world. Stay tuned, folks.
For an interactive overview of the Rafale’s performance and component assembly sites, see here.