The French Ministry of the Armed Forces confirmed an order for 12 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation to replace the second-hand aircraft taken from the French Air Force inventory for the benefit of Greece. The contract must be signed before the end of 2020.
Facing rising tensions with Turkey, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced in mid-September that six new and twelve used Rafales F3R would be acquired. The deduction of the fighter jets from the French Air Force fleet allows a faster and cheaper procurement for Greece, which will become the first European customer of the aircraft. The order should be finalized by the end of 2020, with the delivery to take place between mid-2021 and 2022.
Preventing the operational impact
However, the levy is a setback for the capability of the French Air Force. The objective was to raise the number of Rafale fighters, the backbone of the force, to 129 jets by 2025, from 102 currently. But with the express need of Greece, Dassault Aviation will have to dedicate its production to the new six new Rafales on order. Meanwhile, 55 Mirage 2000D strike fighters are undergoing modernization. All in all, it would mean that the French military would come short of 18 fighter jets in 2022.
Thus, the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced that a new order would be placed. “It is my priority to ensure that such withdrawals will not have an operational impact on our forces,” Parly told the Defense Commission of the French Parliament. “We fully intend, by the end of the year, to place an order, in parallel with the orders that will be sent for Greece, for the needs of the Air Force.”
To meet the needs of both countries in the upcoming two years, Dassault Aviation might have to ramp up the production of the Rafale. In 2019, the French manufacturer delivered 26 Rafale to Qatar, Egypt, and India. The last delivery to the French Air Force dates back to 2018.