Military Aviation

Rafale production line shifts back to French Air Force after a four-year interruption

Deliveries to France were interrupted for budgetary reasons. The Rafale production line was then dedicated to export orders.

On Dec. 29, 2022, Dassault Aviation’s Mérignac plant delivered Rafale B359 (F3R standard) to the Direction Générale de l’Armement (French defense procurement agency).

According to a Dassault Aviation press release, this event marks the resumption of Rafale deliveries to France after an interruption of four years.

The Rafale B359 is for the French Air and Space Force. It is part of the “tranche 4” order for 60 aircraft awarded in 2009.

In accordance with the various Military Programming Acts, deliveries to France were interrupted for budgetary reasons.

The Rafale production line was then dedicated to export orders.

A further 27 Rafale are still to be delivered for tranche 4.

Four batches of Rafales have been ordered by the French armed forces to date. They comprise 13, 48, 59 and 60 aircraft, respectively — 132 Rafale Bs (two-seaters) and Cs (single-seaters) for the French Air and Space Force, and 48 Rafale Ms (single-seaters) for the French Navy. In January 2021, an additional batch of 12 Rafales was ordered by France to replace 12 aircraft sold to Greece.

Tranche 5 should be awarded in 2023.

The company said that “In the current strategic context, the Dassault Aviation group is particularly proud to be a partner in equipping and supporting the French Air Force, as it has done for more than a century.”

The Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries, and was selected for purchase by the Egyptian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, the Qatar Air Force, the Hellenic Air Force, the Croatian Air Force, the Indonesian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.

The Colombian government said on Dec. 21, 2022 that it shortlisted a French bid to sell 16 Rafale fighter planes to the South American nation for up to $3.15 billion but on Jan. 2, 2023 initial negotiations between Colombia and Dassault Aviation to replace part of the aging fleet of Israeli-made Kfir fighter jets of the Colombian Air Force (FAC, Fuerza Aérea Colombiana) have collapsed.

“So far, the Rafale aircraft proposal is the best option for the country in relation to price, efficiency and operability. One hour of flight time in a Rafale aircraft is approximately 30% cheaper than one hour of flight time in a Kfir,” the office of Colombia’s president’s said in a statement.

Dassault Aviation was not interested in an initial sale of three to five airplanes using the budget approved by the previous government, but instead wanted to negotiate for a total of 16 planes, Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez explained.

However, Velasquez said that there will be continued efforts in 2023 to see if a purchase is possible.

Photo credit: Dassault Aviation

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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