Tensions are mounting in the Helvetic Confederation as the announcement of the choice of the model of combat aircraft for the replacement of the F / A 18 Hornets and F-5 Tiger, scheduled for the end of this month, approaches. And according to the information site lematin.ch, which is one of the flagship titles of the country's leading press group, the Rafale would appear to be Bern's favorite in this highly strategic competition for all the manufacturers involved. Indeed, according to the article published today, the Swiss authorities would favor a European solution to an American aircraft, both for political and operational reasons, the two European aircraft manufacturers involved, Airbus Defense & Space and the Eurofighter consortium presented by Berlin for the Typhoon, and Dassault Aviation presented by Paris for the Rafale, accompanied by a more successful industrial and security cooperation package that is more respectful of Swiss specificities.
For lematin.ch, several information suggests that the French offer would be favored by Bern, in particular because of a higher exposure of the Rafale in the presentations of the Ministry of Defense, but also by the choice announced a few months ago of thea Thales Skyview solution to pilot the anti-aircraft defense of the country. Objectively, these data do not constitute formal indications of choice, but it seems that the journalist had access to unofficial confidences on the subject. However, other information suggests that Paris now considers its offer in a good position in this competition.
In fact, in the first place, Dassault and Team Rafale remain very mobilized around this competition, even though several other hot topics monopolize them. Thus, during an interview given to the BFM Business Channel, Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, indicated that he intended to register at least two new orders this year, one of them coming from India, the other from a second country not specified. In addition, we know that discussions are very advanced with Indonesia, and that discussions are underway with other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates or Iraq. However, in recent years, Dassault has shown that it knows how to concentrate its efforts on competitions and markets with potential, and to withdraw from non-open competitions, such as in Canada or Belgium. Therefore, the fact that the French aircraft manufacturer is continuing its efforts and its involvement in Switzerland, as well as in Finland, shows that it firmly believes in its chances.
Secondly, and in a more subtle way, we notice that the Ministry of the Armed Forces has not yet no fleet regularization order announced concerning the 12 Rafales which will be acquired second-hand in France by Croatia. Admittedly, the contract has not yet been officially signed, but the absence of any announcement in this area seems to show that Dassault and the French Ministry of the Armed Forces anticipate new orders in the short term, which could potentially scale the Rafale production chain in the years. to come up. For the manufacturer, it is indeed necessary to smooth out its production capacities as much as possible, which can range from 11 to 36 devices per year for the Merignac assembly line, over time, while respecting the delivery schedules of export customers. Under these conditions, it may be preferable to postpone the replacement of the 12 Croatian planes beyond 2023/2024, when they will actually be taken from the Air Force inventories, so as to maintain stable and optimized production. as long as possible, if possible even until the start of NGF production.
Remember that the French armies are awaiting the delivery of 28 Rafale F3Rs between 2022 and 2024, including 27 for the Air and Space Army and one for the Naval Aeronautics, to which are added the 12 Rafale compensated by the Greek order and 30 F4 standard planes to be delivered between 2027 and 2029. In addition to these 70 aircraft, Dassault must also produce 30 new Rafale for Egypt and 6 for Greece, with a probable rapid expansion of 6 other devices. Therefore, the probable orders Indian (36 devices), Indonesian (36 devices) and potentially Switzerland (Approx. 40 devices) and Finnish (56 devices), carry in each of them a very important dimensioning effect, which should be integrated before adding the load to replace the 12 Croatian Rafales. It is therefore probable that these devices, which will naturally be replaced to comply with the format of the 2013 white paper and the 2017 strategic review, will not be ordered before Dassault and the French State have a clear vision of the load plan to come, that is to say beyond 2022 and therefore of the current magistracy, for a delivery which, obviously, will not take place before the next Programming Law, and will be done directly in the F4.2 standard.
The final choice of Bern could be made on June 23 according to lematin.ch, and there is no doubt that the 4 manufacturers still in the running are all mobilized as this decision will be decisive. Thus, for Boeing and its F / A 18 E / F Super Hornet, a Swiss (or Finnish) order would mean the maintenance of the production line of the aircraft for another 2 years, while the US Navy has decided not to no longer ordering Super Hornets again. The same goes for the European Typhoon, since the device will no longer be ordered by London, and probably no longer by Berlin beyond the replacement of the Tornado announced last year. As for the F35A, it would be a major commercial argument in a country known for the rigor of its selection processes, and especially as the US Air Force continues its sling to reduce the volume of aircraft that it is supposed to acquire.
For the Rafale, a decision in its favor on the part of Berne would also be more than strategic. It would indeed be the first victory of the French aircraft over the American F35A in an open competition and not influenced by considerations coming from NATO. This would also allow Dassault Aviation and the French BITD to increase its collaborations with the Swiss defense industry, especially since the French industrial compensation offer has been carefully designed to be long-lasting and sustainable. Finally, this would confirm the attractiveness of the Rafale F4 today, as an economical and efficient alternative to the F35A, while extending the installed base, and therefore reducing the costs of maintenance and development over time. In addition, and indirectly, the choice in favor of the French plane could influence the decision concerning the Swiss anti-aircraft defense system for which the Franco-Italian SAMP / T Mamba is facing the American Patriot. We now have to wait for the official designation of the winner within 2 or 3 weeks. However, it is important to remain cautious about rumors and over-interpreted information, and especially not to claim victory too early.