Thursday, January 6, 2011

UAE To Restart Rafale Talks

UAE To Restart Rafale Talks | AVIATION WEEK

By Michael A. Taverna

PARIS — The United Arab Emirates has signaled that negotiations to acquire France’s advanced Rafale combat aircraft can restart, French press reports say.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and commander of the UAE armed forces, requested that Paris renew its proposal to sell up to 60 Rafales to the UAE during a visit to Paris in mid-December, the reports say.

The Emirates broke off talks last summer, seemingly piqued over the premature disclosure of details and other issues, and requested information from Boeing on a possible F/A-18 buy.

French Defense Minister Alain Juppe — speaking in the margins of a New Year’s address by President Nicolas Sarkozy at St. Dizier air base in eastern France, home of the first two Rafale air force squadrons — confirmed that the UAE proposal is again “on the right track.”

Juppe added that negotiations with Brazil, another potential Rafale customer, also are still active

The resumption of discussions with the UAE also may have been facilitated by a French decision, announced Jan. 3, to clear the acquisition of 200 Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles.

Defense budget constraints had caused concern that the production award for the missile, which is thought to be high on the list of Rafale equipment items desired by the UAE, might be deferred or reduced (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 5).

The UAE wish list also is said to include upgraded M88 engines better suited to Middle East conditions, active electronically scanned radar, the Damocles targeting pod and Reco NG reconnaissance pod.

A partial squadron of Rafale F3 multirole aircraft equipped with the Reco NG and Damocles is standing up at a new French base in Abu Dhabi to show off the aircraft’s capabilities, backed up by a naval and air force deployment in the Afghan theater begun last month.

However, significant hurdles remain, including UAE demands that France find a buyer for 60 Mirage 2000 fighters currently in its inventory.


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