Discussions between France and the UAE on a prospective next-generation Rafale strike fighter are taking longer than expected but Paris hopes an agreement can be reached on a "common core" aircraft by the end of the year, a French official said May 3.
An agreement reached by "the end of 2010" would open the way for delivery of the more capable Rafale model in 2014 and a flying operational life in 2015, said the official, who is familiar with the negotiations.
The talks on cooperation also mean the French Air Force and Navy could get an advanced F4 version of the Rafale earlier than planned. The F3 standard is just entering service and is expected to fly until 2018-2020. The F4 model would be a true "fifth-generation" aircraft, the official said.
A buyback of the Mirage 2000-9 fleet flown by the UAE has not been agreed with France, but remains a "hypothesis among others," the official said.
There is "a small club" of countries flying the Mirage 2000 into which the UAE could sell the Mirage 2000-9 aircraft, the official said.
The main additional capabilities under discussion with the UAE include an active electronically scanned array radar, advanced electronic warfare and frontal sector optronics gear, and a nine ton thrust version of the M88 engine.
Dassault Aviation is prime contractor for the Rafale. Thales builds the electronic systems, Snecma the M88 engine.