Why the Rafale Is Likely To Win More Export Orders & The Typhoon Is Not

As the Paris Air Show approaches, the press is marvelling at France’s success in winning three export orders for its Dassault Rafale fighter this year and speculating whether this French jet or its competitors will be selected by more foreign customers in the years ahead.

The first new opportunities will be in Saudi Arabia, which is looking to buy 48 or more fighter jets, and its satellite state Bahrain, which will shop for about a squadron’s worth (i.e. 12) of aircraft. The UAE will also be shopping for fighters – around 60.

Afterwards, Malaysia, Indonesia, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, and Poland will be looking for fighter jets to buy, as they need to replace their old, obsolete fleets of previous-generation aircraft.

Analysts and journalists are praising the French government’s active, close involvement in the bids – which is what probably tipped the scales in Dassault’s favor – but some are still deluding themselves that the Typhoon, manufactured by Dassault’s rival Eurofighter, can somehow outcompete the Rafale. DefenseNews reports:

“Justin Bronk, an air power analyst at the RUSI think tank in London, has published a report looking at Typhoon’s potential to meet Europe’s air power requirements, which concludes the jet is already the best air superiority fighter outside of the F-22 Raptor but is outclassed for the moment by the more mature Rafale in the air-to-ground role.

“In the Eurofighter, the European states have the most formidable non-stealth air-superiority platform in the world,” Bronk said.

With the entry into service of Storm Shadow and Brimstone II missiles, on contract to the UK Royal Air Force in 2018, and with an active electronically scanned array radar in development, Typhoon capabilities “should surpass that of the Rafale in many respects,” he said.”https://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

This utter nonsense, evidently written by a person who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

The fact is that the Rafale is superior to the Typhoon in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground role. The Rafale, not the Typhoon, is the best Western air superiority fighter after the F-22 Raptor.

With regard to air-to-air combat, the Rafale clearly outclasses the Typhoon as it accelerates and climbs faster, is lighter and more maneuverable, can carry more ordnance, carries better weapons (e.g. the MBDA MICA IR far outranges the IRIS-T, at 50+ kms vs the IRIS-T’s 25 kms), is cheaper to buy and fly, has highway basing capability, and requires less maintenance than the Typhoon – and far less so than the F-22. Moreover, the Rafale already has an active electronically-scanned array radar, while the Typhoon does not and will not for years to come.

If that were not enough, the Rafale is carrier-capable, while the Typhoon is not and will never be, as it is too heavy and was EXPLICITLY designed not to be carrier-capable.

Adding Storm Shadow and Brimstone II missiles and equipping the Typhoon with an AESA will change nothing. This will just barely bring the Typhoon up to par with the Rafale in some respects – several years from now (by which time the Rafale will have likely been upgraded further). France already uses the Storm Shadow missile under the name of SCALP EG; the Brimstone II changes nothing; and equipping the Typhoon with a radar will barely bring it up to par with the Rafale on that score.

Contrary to what Mr Bronk says, the Typhoon does not, and will not, exceed the Rafale in capability on any score whatsoever.

This fact, coupled with Britain’s strong support for the Obama administration’s capitulation to Iran, its growing isolationism (and thus isolation in the world), and its retreat from the world stage, will only undermine any export prospects the Typhoon might still enjoy.

For – as France has learned – it is not enough to produce a good or even outstanding fighter to win export orders for it; one has to establish very friendly relations – indeed, strategic partnerships – with prospective customers, and maintain these friendly ties for many years.

French leaders have done so. British leaders have not. And considering their insular thinking, their myopic preoccupation with domestic affairs, and their growing isolationist tendencies, they aren’t likely to learn that lesson anytime soon.

Indeed, the Cameron years have been a time of a stunning loss of influence in the world by Britain. And the worst part of it is that the Tory Cabinet is pleased with itself and doesn’t realize anything bad has happened. But years ago, the Daily Telegraph expressed that worry openly in its pages.

This is, in particular, a defeat for the UK: it, along with West Germany and Italy, forced France to leave the Eurofighter program in 1984 because they didn’t want to develop a carrier-capable fighter (while France wanted it). Now, as my fellow blogger Picard says, France has a fighter that has not only arrived sooner, but is carrier-capable and better, in most respects, than the Typhoon – while the UK is stuck buying crappy F-35s for its carriers (which will be STOVL and not CATOBAR).

But British analysts are hardly the only ones who have manifested unwarranted optimism recently. Saab executives have also done so (though this is not surprising – they have to display optimism publicly).

Saab estimates it can win orders for up to 200 aircraft in the years ahead. But the only countries likely to order the Saab Gripen are poor countries that cannot afford more expensive (and more capable) aircraft like the Rafale and the Typhoon and/or do not face any significant threats – such as Brazil. The Latin American country ordered 36 Gripens in 2013, but as even Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group admits, Brazil doesn’t face any real threats at this moment – all of its neighbors are either economic basket cases or military weaklings.



One thought on “Why the Rafale Is Likely To Win More Export Orders & The Typhoon Is Not”

  1. “e.g. the MBDA MICA IR far outranges the IRIS-T, at 50+ kms vs the IRIS-T’s 25 kms”

    This is wrong comparison. MICA IR is a dual-role BVR / WVR missile with 80 km range and 50 g capability at Mach 4, while IRIS-T is a dogfighting missile with 25 km range and 60 g capability at Mach 3. Better comparison with MICA would be British ASRAAM (50 km range, 50 g capability at Mach 3).

    In short, MICA is *not* better than IRIS-T, it simply offers different capability. IRIS-T is a better dogfighting missile while MICA is BVRAAM.

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