France orders 12 more Dassault Rafales

France has ordered 12 new-build Rafale multi-role fighters from Dassault Aviation to replace a dozen examples from the French Air and Space Force (FASF), which were sold to Greece late last month.

The acquisition contract was signed by French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation on January 29. This new deal was inked less than a week after Greece contracted the firm to deliver 18 Rafale fighters to the Hellenic Air Force.

Rafale C [USAF/Tech Sgt Joshua Williams]
A FASF-operated Dassault Rafale C receives fuel from a US Air Force-operated McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender tanker over southwest Asia on February 1, 2020. The French government ordered 12 new-build Rafales on January 29, 2021, to replace the second-hand FASF examples that were sold to Greece on January 25. USAF/Tech Sgt Joshua Williams

As part of that purchase, it was agreed that Greece would receive 12 recently-manufactured Rafales as surplus from the FASF, along with six new-build examples from Dassault. The January 29 contract signing covers the production and delivery of 12 new-build fighters for the FASF, which will ultimately replace the air arm’s outgoing aircraft.

At the signing, Trappier said: “This contract for 12 new aircraft will enable our air and space force to continue the Rafale build-up while awaiting the fifth tranche, which is scheduled for delivery between 2027 and 2030. The contract is a great satisfaction for Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and the 500 French companies involved in the programme, in the particularly difficult conditions facing our aeronautics sector in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Described by Dassault as an “omnirole” fighter, the Rafale is capable of undertaking an array of missions in air-to-air and air-to-surface settings. It has the ability to conduct interception, deep strike, close air support, real-time tactical/strategic reconnaissance, buddy-buddy in-flight refuelling, nuclear deterrence and maritime strike tasks.

France Rafale Procurement [Dassault Aviation/S. Randé]
Eric Trappier and Florence Parly (left) pose with Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the FASF, and Guilhem Reboul, a representative from the French Defense Procurement Agency, after signing the acquisition contract for 12 new-build Dassault Rafales on January 29. Dassault Aviation/S. Randé

The platform first entered operational service with the French Navy in 2004, before being adopted by the FASF in 2006, where it replaced several fleets of previous-generation fixed-wing combat aircraft. Since its introduction, French Rafales have been involved in combat operations over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali and Syria.

According to Dassault – as of January 29, 2021 – France has ordered a total of 192 Rafales to date, with 152 having been delivered to the nation. A further 114 examples have been ordered by Egypt, Greece, India and Qatar.