Thursday, 9 May 2013

Fly on the wall, Part II: Boeing and Dassault peddle their wares.

Like the CF-18 Hornet, only "Hornetier"!
Following up on my previous post where were representatives of Eurofighter and Saab were given a brief opportunity to peddle their wares before a House of Commons defense committee; here is testimony from Mr. Kory G. Mathews, Vice-President in charge of Boeing's F/A-18 and EA-18 programs.

Some highlights:
Debuting just four years ago, in 2006, the Block II Super Hornet incorporates the latest defence technology advancements, including an integrated display of fused data from a new wide array of sensors, making it the newest combat fighter attack aircraft in operational service today with the United States forces.
To date, more than 440 Super Hornets have been delivered to the United States Navy and most recently the Royal Australian Air Force, with each and every aircraft delivered on or ahead of schedule and on or under budget.
The Super Hornet today operates in an interoperable manner. It's important to note that the navy's current plans have the F-18-E/F Super Hornet and the other variant, the EA-18G, operating side by side off of carrier decks out to 2035 or 2040, with the F-35 in a complementary role to the Super Hornet.  (This point is made several times during the proceedings.  For both the USN and the RAAF, the Super Hornet and F-35 are intended to compliment each other, rather than replace or compete with each other.)
The term “fifth generation”, and really the entire generational context, has become more of a marketing term with a lack of a universal definition, and more importantly, with a lack of specificity and the attendant requirements associated with whatever capability would be needed.
With the EA-18G electronic attack, it does close air support, and as the navy operates today, the Super Hornet even operates as a tanker, refuelling other Super Hornets and other legacy Hornets.
 (When discussing potential Super Hornet sales to other countries)  Sir, each country has their own unique requirements and/or capability needs.

"Compliant with Quebec's language laws!"  The Rafale.
Next comes Mr. Yves Robins, Assistant Director, International General Directorate, Dassault Aviation:
In the last 60 years, about 7,500 aircraft have been delivered to 70 countries by Dassault--not only combat aircraft but also business jets, as well.

(Regarding interoperability)  The aircraft was designed to plug seamlessly into multi-national operations and to provide total interoperability with the hardware of North American and European NATO allies.
The Rafale is required to be in operation with the French armed forces for between 30 and 40 years. As as result, it is essential that it have the capacity to adapt to evolving threats but also to advances in technology and weapons systems. The aircraft's open architecture allows for upgrading to successive standards.
I can tell you that the Rafale meets all the specified requirements.
Our company has a very long tradition of industrial cooperation with its customers. It is part of our corporate DNA.
In cases where the French Government decides to sell a fighter to a friendly nation, we do not restrict the transfer of technology. This is especially important today given the huge number of electronic components in fighter navigation and attack systems. It is also vital given the need for countries with the necessary capacity to be able to tailor weapons systems to their own requirements and to support the operational life and upgrading of the aircraft over a 30 to 40-year period.
I can tell you that the Rafale went up against the F-22, which is the most powerful fighter in the World, during an exercise in the United Arab Emirates last year. It more than held its own.
The Rafale is a stealth fighter. The Rafale was built for the French Air Force. They are our customer. Their approach is different from the one use in the F-35. The French Air Force has focused on a concept it calls "low observability". They define low observability as being a mix of stealth, passive weapon-system management and optimization of mission paths.  (It would seem as though the term "Stealth" is in the eye of the beholder.  I have little doubt that the F-35 is "stealthier" but the Rafale has been deemed "stealthy enough" for the French armed forces.
We consider this discussion about the generations as a pure marketing tool. Ever since the end of World War II, the philosophy of our company has been to develop successive prototypes and improve them with the improvements in technology.

Like Eurofighter and Saab, Boeing and Dassault seem eager for Canada's business.  They are all willing to compete in an open competition and they all believe that their aircraft can meet Canada's needs.

Competition can be a good thing.  It not only helps reveal the best aircraft for Canada, but it also encourages the manufacturers to offer up the best value deal they can.


  1. Dassault seems to have a talent for hyperbole matched only by Lockheed Martin. Stealth! F-22-killer! (and let's not forget about Rafales "├┤mnirole" capability!) ;)
    I hope you can forgive me for taking some potshots at the very fine Rafale. With wording like that it's just too hard to pass on the fun.

    On a serious note, wouldn't it be great if Canada got the competitors over and did some tests? Take a close look at the strategies and natures of the rather different concepts and let the systems speak for themselves. /Tor

    1. Boeing and Eurofighter have also made similar claims of "stealth". They are no doubt stealthier than older designs, but not in the same league as jets like the F-22 and F-35.

      As for the Rafale vs F-22, I would imagine a scenario close to the "Raptor Salad" scenario where the F-22's size and lack of IRST puts it at a slight disadvantage in WVR combat.

      As for an actual physical fly off, absolutely. At the very least, a more detailed study.

    2. That's not here I saw the hyperbole!

      The reason why all competitors insist on stealth is rather logical : since F-117/B-2, many have seen stealth as a yes/no thing. That's not so simple, and I think they try to remind that to potential customers... I doubt politicians know anything about RCS! The only way to know for RCAF will be to test stealth performance of each plane...

      Regarding the Rafale vs F-22 thing, that's not an overstatement : "It more than held its own". Does that sound like 'F-22 killer'?
      F-22 isn't an invincible fighter, after all.

      However, the industrial cooperation part is more questionable : which example does he have in mind? Industrialized countries are mainly american customers or Gripen/Typhoon countries. Only the Indian Rafale will (considerably) change that.

    3. Interesting things about stealth claims :

      On the second page : "The Super Hornet is a low observable stealth aircraft". Also a direct approach!

  2. I agree. The Dassault representative's presentation is somewhat over the top, which is not good for his credibility. Nevertheless, the Rafale is an outstanding aircraft. The main obstacle for Canada is whether US weapons like AIM-120 AMRAAMS and AIM-9 sidewinders can be used with the Rafale. Is this going to be possible and if so at what price?

    1. Integration is possible (the contrary would be a shame) but that's probably pricey... Air-to-air missile integration seems to be a costly task.

      So I agree that's the main obstacle : in order to have a chance to export Rafale in a NATO country, Dassault should offer integration of such weapons.

      Many dollars could be saved, eventually, if Canada was choosing to replace AMRAAM by Meteor for BVR combat.

  3. a cut-out from :

    "In the latest strategic defence review carried out under the insistence of the French government, last month, France has capped the purchase of Rafale fighter jets to 225. Originally, the Rafale programme envisaged production of 320 aircraft for the French government but this was cut to 286 later and now to 225. Till date, only 180 of them have been ordered; all of them by France. The company is yet to find an export customer for its front-line fighter jet. As a result, the cost of Rafale to France has climbed steadily. The French Senate assessment of the 2013 national defence budget pegs the total cost of the Rafale programme, including development expenses, to the French exchequer at €44.2 billion. Dividing the total programme cost with number of aircraft to be built i.e. 225 gives a per aircraft cost of €196.4 million" (or approx. CAD 259.1 million at today’s exchange rate.)
    Keep in mind that this price is calculated without the possible benefits of the so far unsigned contract with India.

    1. Yeah, I have read this article and I have another detail to point out :
      the €196.4 million price is false because not updated. The total cost of Rafale program was €44.2 billion for 286 aircrafts. With 61 units cancelled, the total cost will change. Previous French orders shows a unit cost near €75 million, so that's at least €4 billion.
      Though, unit cost including development will necessarily rise. But that's only a cost from the French perspective : included development costs as well as included taxes are irrelevant for export customers.

  4. That way the cost per aircraft goes down to €176 million or CAD 232 million. That’s not probably right either as you write €75 million as a cost, but I guess you mean price?

    If what you tell is true, the F-35 has a huge handicap against the Rafale: all development costs are included in the F-35 price and there is a very strict law in US that forbids that an export customer receives a lower price than what, say, USAF pays.
    So… Dassault sell their aircrafts for production cost plus margin (profit) and the state of France willingly pay the whole development cost?

    Costs, prices and packages with training, weapons and spares are the hardest parts to see through...Is this fly-away? Is the engine included? If customer B cancel, will that change my price and why do you want to know my swiss account number?

    1. ok many interesting things.
      First of all, I was speaking about the unit flyaway price paid by France for any additionnal Rafale. To be honest, that's very difficult to know precisely.
      I have deducted the €75 million price from recent articles about French anticipated orders which quoted, for example, a price of €800 million for 11 units. But, that's not necessarily so simple...

      But, I insist, yes, development was already funded, so Dassault will not add this cost to an export order.
      That's true that U.S companies aren't allowed to sell at a lower price to export customers?
      Well, that's surprising but that could explain a lot. BUT, the context is in fact different. U.S.A have the biggest (by a large margin) military budget and any program is backed by a big/huge domestic order. For F-35, development costs will theoretically be shared between 2443 planes while that's only 225 for Rafale. That's a ten-fold difference of the development cost impact on the final unit price. So F-35 handicap is minimal.

      In addition, when you speak about 'France pay the whole development cost', I will answer : and what about USA for F-15, F-16,F-18, etc. ? If the manufacturer is AFTERWARDS able to sell his product at the USAF price, that's good for him, but not directly for US taxpayers, who have already paid the whole development cost.

      I agree with you, when it comes to package including training, weapons and spare parts, that's nearly impossible to compare. In addition, there is often specific development cost if customer has special needs and in this case, unit price can significantly increase (especially for a little order).

      What I know with a pretty good confidence level about Rafale is :
      - Fly-away price includes engine : about that part, I think only US products are concerned, because some U.S warplanes have two engines sources (typically P&W or GE), so maybe a different price;
      - An order is an order, that seems very unlikely that Dassault could came to an export customer to negociate a higher price after a cancellation of another customer... and if customer disagree, Dassault couldn't have other choice that pay himself additionnal costs...

  5. hrmmm...Maybe I wasn’t 100% correct there and expressed myself a wee quickly...

    As far as I understand, US have three ways of exporting stuff of war : either through Direct Sales, the FMS or the DCS program.

    1.) Direct sales with Canada and most other Western nations can be negotiated directly with the US manufacturer.

    2.) The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program is the U.S. Governments program for transferring defense articles, services, and training to other sovereign nations and international organizations. Under FMS, the U.S. government procures defense articles and services on behalf of the foreign customer. (So the local producer cannot negotiate the deal directly with the customer or give them a better price than what US military pays.)
    Countries approved to participate in this program may obtain defense articles and services by paying with their own national funds or with funds provided through U.S. government-sponsored assistance programs. In certain cases, defense articles, services and training may be obtained on a grant basis. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) administers the FMS program for the Department of Defense (DoD).

    3.) For less complicated exports, deals can also go through the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), but these too go through the US government much the same way as the FMS does.

    1. Ok, thank you for these details.

      But, there is still something unclear.
      Imagine USAF wants a new fighter. Lockheed designs a fighter with development cost of $1 billion. In addition, each aircraft costs $10 million to build and USAF buy 1000 units of this plane : that's $10 billion. At this time USAF spends $11 billion for this program, so that's $11 million cost per aircraft (including development).

      But, imagine there is a war and USAF loses 100 units of the fighter. After the war, USAF decides to buy again 100 units as a replacement for the destroyed ones. Will the price be $10 million each or $11 million?
      In my opinion, only the first one is fair for USAF, because whole development is already paid in these case. So, if an export customer buy the plane, even through the FMS program, the price cannot include already funded development.

      Do you see what I mean?