Qatar has exercised an option to buy 12 more Dassault Rafales, making a total of 36 now due to enter service with the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), starting next year. Dassault said that Qatar had “expressed satisfaction with the performance of the main contract” and said it had signed “an agreement on future cooperation.” Separately, BAE Systems confirmed that it had now signed the expected deal to supply 24 Eurofighter Typhoons to Qatar.
Production of the French combat jet now seems set to continue into the late 2020s, thanks to the export backlog, and slow deliveries to the French air force and navy. About a dozen Rafales emerge each year from final assembly at Bordeaux. Dassault was planning to deliver eight more Rafales to Egypt this year, making 14, with another 10 to follow. Deliveries of the 36 ordered by India will begin in 2019. Meanwhile, the French air force was due to receive only one aircraft this year, followed by three in 2018 but none in 2019 or 2020. That would leave 28 jets to be delivered to the domestic customer starting in 2021, making a total of 180.
Earlier this year, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said that there were strong prospects of selling the Rafale to Belgium, Finland, and Switzerland, as well as to other air forces that previously bought Mirage 2000s. That would include the UAE, which has long been considered a likely customer by Dassault. A company official reaffirmed that optimism to AIN recently, despite the UAE opting to upgrade its F-16s and seeking F-35s because, he said, the Emiratis would seek to preserve an alternative source to the U.S. for the supply of combat aircraft.
However, the likelihood of Belgium becoming a Rafale customer receded this fall, when Steven Vandeput, the country’s defense minister, said that France and Dassault had not responded properly to his RFP for 34 aircraft to replace F-16s. Vandeput told the Belgian parliament that only Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin had submitted compliant bids, the latter for the F-35. But on December 5, the French government re-affirmed its proposal for a far-reaching technical and offset agreement to accompany a Belgian buy of the Rafale. Best and final offers are due in mid-February, with a decision due to be made in mid-2018.
BAE Systems said that the Typhoon contract with Qatar was worth about £5 billion ($6.7 billion), and included a bespoke support and training package. Deliveries will start in late 2022.
This story was updated by Chris Pocock on December 10.