If international headlines are anything to go by, nobody knows what is actually going on in talks between Indian and Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter jets. This week’s headlines ranged from ‘India’s Rafale deal in trouble over offsets and cost’ and ‘Talks for 36 Rafale jets far from over’ to ‘Rafale deal in final stage’ and ‘Rafale deal finalised’. Take your pick!
Each day, the vagenuess surrounding this ‘deal’ gets more vague. In fact, it got more vague on each of the 365 days since a ‘deal’ for 36 aircraft was first reported, also here on Airheadsfly.com. Since then, talks have dragged on over offsets, technology transfer and of course, costs. The deal is worth roughly 8 billion USD.
Flirting in the US
Most importantly, both Dassault and New Delhi mostly kept silent this week. However, India has been known to flirt with both Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the F-18 Super Hornet and F-16 respectively. The promise of local production for these type seems to tempt New Delhi.
Meanwhile, news outlets base their stories on sources ‘close to the negotiations’. It very much looks like something is to be expected soon from an official source. That source will either have his pen ready to finally ink the deal, or a firm headache after difficult talks that eventually led India in the arms of Boeing or Lockheed Martin, or maybe even their Russian equivalents.
The combat backbone for decades of French Naval Aviation, the Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard, made its final carrier launch of its service carreer last week when aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle returned home in the port of Toulon on Thursday 17 March 2016.
Being replaced by the sleeker and modern Dassault Rafale M, the Super Étendard has been protecting French interests overseas ever since it entered service in June 1978. Keeping the value of the naval air asset somewhat up-to-date, 48 of this Marine strike aircraft underwent extensive modifications in the 1990s and early 2000s. The adjustments included a new on board computer and a new radar, heads-on-throttle-and-stick controls (HOTAS), a new electronic counter measures suite, night vision goggles, a laser designator pod, a reconnaissance pod and air-frame life-extension.
Nuclear weapons and Exocet
France kept the aircraft at hand for any thinkable action, including the release of free-fall nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles. Despite being in numerous conflicts on behalf of La France, the Super Étendard’s most impressive action was done by only four of them flying for the Argentine Navy. Armed with the Exocet missiles they crippled the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield and sank the chartered British merchant vessel Atlantic Conveyor during the 1982 Falklands / Malvinas War.
A total of 71 of 85 built Super Étendards were delivered to the French navy since the first flight of the type in 1974. Only one was lost in battle, downed by an Iranian F-4 Phantom II in 1984 on loan to the Iraqi Air Force. After its full shore-based retirement later this year in France, only 10 Super Étendards will soldier on, flying missions every now and then for the Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina.
Air France gave its final Boeing 747s a fitting farewell on Thursday 14 January by flying two aircraft all over France. For all of those on board there was a business class lunch with champagne, plus commentary during the flight explaining the Jumbo’s heritage, while overlooking France and its landmarks.
The final commercial flight ended on 10 January already, as the final Jumbo arrived back at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport after a round trip to Mexico City. Air France operated the Jumbo Jet for 45 years, taking delivery of its first double decked airliner in 1970. The Airbus A380 now takes over most routes.
The Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget offers special visits to the company’s last 747 on 16 and 17 January 2016. These visits, organized by Air France staff are free but must be reserved online. It involves a one-hour tour starting on the ramp outside the aircraft with mechanics, a visit to the business and economy cabins with cabin crew, followed by a visit of the upper deck and the cockpit with an Air France pilot.
France has ordered six additional NH90 helicopters in tactical troop transport (TTH) configuration, the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) said on Thursday 7 January. The order closely follows that of seven more Tiger attack helicopters in December.
The new NH90 order brings the total amount of NH90 TTHs on order for the French Army Aviation to 74. Since 2010, the type has been deployed by several countries in different theatres of operation. An extensive list of role-tailored equipment allows the NH90 to fit operators’ mission needs.
A new and possibly final chapter has been added to the tale of India and the Dassault Rafale. According to numerous reports on Monday 28 December, the deal for 36 Rafales agreed earlier in 2015 is to be finally signed during a visit by French president Francois Hollande to India on 25 January 2016. If true, it would mean the end of years and years of struggling for Dassault in India.
India in April decided it wants to buy 36 Rafales in a quest that was originally supposed to be for no less than 126 aircraft. Both parties have since been in talks over costs, technology transfer and French return investments in India. The deal is worth an estimated 9 billion EUR.
Meanwhile, Dassault in December said it received the first down payment for 24 Rafales for Qatar. That contract was put in ink in May already. If it’s anything to go by: on that occassion, president Hollande visited Qatar for the signing.