The Rafale has lost again

The Swiss army, who had a bit of spare cash to buy some brand new jet fighters, decided it would go with Saab’s Gripen. This jet fighter has proved to be one of the best exports of Sweden’s military industry. Sweden has many of them, but also do the UK, the Czech Republic, Thailand, South Africa, and now Switzerland. Added to the aircrafts are many layers of partnerships and technological transfer and support. So far so good, but the French who were pushing the Rafale on the deal, are now angry because they were not selected. And this is now a recurring problem for the French Rafale, who looks more and more the part of the nasty contender to whom you can only win.

So why is it that the Rafale never sells ? Dassault’s latest jet fighter is a fantastic aircraft, but curiously it never manages to get the upside when a deal has to be closed. And this for 4 reasons. The 1st reason the Rafale does not sell is technology. The Rafale is a great plane, but not as advanced and technologically capable as the F-22 or F-35. The Rafale is not as good as these two, and when technology is a massive factor, the French jet does not come first. You have to mix this with the second reason: purchasing and operating costs. The Rafale is not as good as the F-22 or F-35, but it is almost as expensive to operate. So countries looking for a better deal will be tempted to opt for a similar aircraft, but cheaper, such as the Typhoon, Gripen, F-16, F-15…

The 3rd reason is politics. And of course many countries can be easily pressurized in making choices. That explains why so many ex-soviet countries still buy MiGs and Sukhois. It explains also the fascination of some countries like the Emirates, South Korea and Saudi Arabia for US jet fighters. Interestingly, when politics is aside, such as with the Swiss, the natural choice falls back on cost effective aircrafts such as the Gripen. The 4th reason is that French technology is good. And that is also a problem as countries looking to upgrade at low cost can buy a Mirage. It will do the trick. And no need to ruin yourself buying a top of the range jet fighter to perform the same easy tasks.

Are these the main 4 reasons why the Rafale does not sell ? The aircraft simply has not found its market. If, as a country, you are very rich, you may want the F-22 or F-35. If you are ok and looking for a great plane, you will be probably go for the Typhoon or Gripen. If you are average and looking for a great plane, you can get, F-16, F-15. If you are poor, get an old Mirage. So basically, all this just makes it even more difficult for Dassault to sell the Rafale.