The French military will place an order for 12 Dassault Falcon 2000 Albatros aircraft, according to Florence Parly, the country's minister for the armed forces. They will be equipped for maritime surveillance duties in answer to the AVSIMAR (maritime surveillance and intervention aircraft) requirement. The notification was announced during a visit by Parly to the Dassault plant at Seclin on November 19.
Seven of the aircraft will be ordered under the current five-year military acquisition bill, and will be delivered from 2025. The remainder will be included in the following bill. The first aircraft is to be built and equipped entirely in France. The remainder are to be constructed as "green" airframes in India as part of the offsets associated with the Indian Rafale purchase, although role modifications will be performed in France. As part of the contract, Dassault will commit to a guaranteed availability clause and providing industrial support for at least 10 years.
The Albatros is based on the Falcon 2000LXS business jet and will be outfitted with a range of equipment to suit it for a variety of maritime patrol roles, including search and rescue, fighting pollution and trafficking, surveillance of borders and exclusion zones, and fisheries policing. Large observation windows will be installed in the forward part of the cabin for visual searches and a Thales Searchmaster multi-mode radar will be mounted in a belly fairing. A retractable Safran Euroflir optronics turret will be fitted under the rear fuselage, and the aircraft will be capable of air-dropping search and rescue kits. The aircraft will have a communications suite tailored to its military and public service tasks.
The Albatros is the latest in a line of maritime surveillance aircraft based on various Falcon platforms. “[It] is a high-performance aircraft equipped with a mission system and sensors of the latest generation,” said Dassault chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. “From the Falcon 20 of the U.S. Coast Guard to the Falcon 2000MSA of the Japanese Coast Guard, as well as the Falcon 200 Gardian and 50M of the French Navy, we have extensive experience in maritime surveillance, in addition to our long experience in maritime patrol with the Atlantique."
Currently, the Marine Nationale flies eight Falcon 50MS aircraft in the surveillance role with Flottille 24F, headquartered at Lann-Bihoué in Brittany but also flying from Hyères on the Mediterranean and Dakar in Senegal. Four of the aircraft were delivered from new as 50M SURMAR aircraft, while the other four were converted from surplus VIP transports. The latter received a hatch for air-dropping as part of their modification. The original four aircraft subsequently received this feature, with the last being redelivered to 24F in 2020. Additionally, five older Falcon 200 Gardians serve with Flottille 25F, which operates from Faaa in Tahiti and Noumea in New Caledonia.
France has purchased sizeable numbers of Falcons for VIP/staff transport and various special missions over the years. In January the French government ordered two Falcon 8X Archange aircraft, with a third required, for the signals intelligence-gathering role.