(Belga) Years of production guaranteed for hundreds of companies that have been weakened by the Covid-19 crisis: the sale to the United Arab Emirates of 80 Rafale fighter jets for a total of 16 billion euros involves the entire French aeronautical industry.
The aircraft, which entered service in 2004 and intended to fly until the 2060s, is the export spearhead of the French defense industry, the world’s third largest exporter. “This contract guarantees us that the sustainability of the Rafale production chain is guaranteed until the end of 2031, which gives our industry a lot of visibility”, we observe in the office of the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly. Behind Dassault Aviation is an ecosystem of 400 companies of all sizes involved in its production. Many of these companies in the aviation sector have only part of their activity in the military field and have been weakened by the collapse in global air traffic caused by the pandemic. Military orders therefore act as a shock absorber. The aircraft is built by an economic interest group (GIE Rafale), bringing together Dassault, which oversees 60% of the value of the aircraft, the electronics engineer Thales (22%) and the engine and defense equipment manufacturer Safran (18% ). Thales and its subcontractors thus supply radar, on-board electronic systems and Spectra, a protection system for the Spectra aircraft. Safran and its suppliers are providing the aircraft’s two M-88 engines, the landing gear, the ejection seat, the inertial navigation system (which allows tracking without a GPS signal) and even the electrical wiring. Dassault Aviation produces the aircraft on seven sites spread over the territory: Seclin (North) for mechanical parts, Biarritz for composite parts, Argenteuil (Val d’Oise, fuselage), Martignas (Gironde, wings), Argonay (Haute -Savoie, flight controls), Poitiers for the glass roofs or even Mérignac (Gironde) where the final assembly takes place. And beyond the aircraft itself, Rafale sales are generally matched by contracts for the European missile manufacturer MBDA. From the forge of the first part to leaving the factory, it takes three years to produce an aircraft. With nearly 200 aircraft to be delivered in total by 2031, we will have to increase production rates and go from one aircraft produced per month (i.e. 11 per year), to two and then to three, agrees Dassault Aviation boss Eric Trappier. , for whom “there are no restrictions, it just takes a little time to prepare”. “Eleven Rafale per year is 7,000 direct jobs” very often highly specialized, according to the minister’s office. “With the increase in production,” mechanically there will be hires “, according to this source,” probably thousands “(Belga)