Rafale's Cherry Popped! Brazilian Order Soon!

The French Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter aircraft has crawled superbly out from under its dreary and seemingly endless export virginity. Finally! According to international agency reports, Brazil will shortly announce an order for 36 Rafale fighter planes for its air force, a decision taken shortly after the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the country. The folks at Saint Cloud will be deeply chuffed by the fact that they edged out big-boy Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Sweden's Saab JAS-39 Gripen (and even the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Block 60 before the first downselect) from the high-stakes Brazilian competition. Obviously, it couldn't have come at a better time for Rafale, a fighter programme that has constantly had to convince potential customers -- including India -- that export experience is not necessarily a function of technical superiority.

Saurabh Joshi, Editor of Stratpost says, "There seems to be little question that Rafale will now come into the MMRCA trials with the confident afterglow of a winner." That's a fact, no matter which way you look at it. The Rafale campaign at the MMRCA is likely to get more aggressive now, and probably infused with a much-needed dose of confidence. The Brazilian order gives the Dassault India team a great deal of latitude, but no breathing space, since the competition in India is likely to be just as predicated on politico-economic considerations as it was in Brazil (the country has added very generously to France's military order books, including Scorpene submarines, and vice versa through France's decision to replace its C-130 transports with Embraer equivalents). The Rafale has ongoing competitions in Greece and the UAE as well. Will have to see how those go.

The Rafale begins flight test evaluations in Bangalore in a few weeks, for which Dassault will fly in three French Air Force Rafale-Bs from the Saint-Dizier base. The game is ON, people!

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