Big Bad Blow To Rafale, UAE Threatens To Punch Out

Calling this bad news for Dassault is like saying Luca Brasi is a rough man. The unexpected words of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed on Wednesday -- released through a series of innocent looking tweets, no less -- will have created an exit wound the size of a grapefruit in the psyche of the supremely jinxed French fighter programme. A splendid fighter plane that nobody wants to buy. With this latest, decidedly rough threat by the UAE, there's no telling where things stand for Dassault.

If you haven't been keeping up, France said it was poised to win a $10-billion deal from the UAE for 60 Rafales, a deal it has negotiating for years. On Nov 12, a day ahead of the Dubai Air Show, it became known that the "near-final" deal wasn't actually a deal at all -- and that arch-rivals Eurofighter had been invited to submit details about the Typhoon (for which they'll be in a mad scramble right now, I imagine). And today, boom. A handful of tweets by the Crown Prince brought it down with all the gentleness of a guillotine. Sample this:

"Thanks to President Sarkozy, France could not have done more diplomatically or politically to secure the Rafale deal. Regrettably Dassault seem unaware that all the diplomatic and political will in the world cannot overcome uncompetitive and unworkable commercial terms." (Somehow, "ouch" doesn't quite say it.)

Reuters says its sources pointed to Dassault's "arrogance" as the reason behind frustration both in the French government and in the UAE. Dassault is presumably in too much shock to comment officially just yet, or may be, at the very least making an effort to confirm that this is indeed curtains in the Emirates -- this is of course a bread-and-butter pressure tactic to force the vendor into shaving off a few euros. Either way, as FlightGlobal's Steve Trimble wrote a few days ago, "[S]uch a loss would surely be long remembered in the industry as yet another can't-miss deal that only the French could mess up."

Like I said, it isn't over yet -- far from it. Dassault remains in "contention" -- all of this might just be the UAE's final attempt to get them to bring their final price down. They were going for the same pressure tactics when they invited the Americans in last year, and Eurofighter earlier this week. Will Dassault buckle and give UAE an acceptable price?

Yeah, we're all thinking the same thing: Where does this leave things on the MMRCA?

Photo / Rafale News

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