Prospects for the French Fighter Industry in a Post-Cold War Environment: Is the Future More Than a Mirage?
Publication Date: January 1993
Publisher(s): Pardee Rand Graduate School
Author(s): Yolande Simon
Since withdrawing from NATO's integrated military structure in 1966, France has striven for self-sufficiency in the defense sector. A major component of this policy has been to maintain an independent arms manufacturing capability, particularly a fighter industry. The small size of the domestic market has necessitated an aggressive export policy, which met with considerable success under the guidance of French aviation industrialist Marcel Dassault. France found a niche in marketing mid-range, moderately priced fighters--the famous Mirage series--known for their simplicity, reliability and excellent performance. This strategy was altered in the early 1980s with the design of the Rafale multirole fighter, which will directly compete with American or Soviet fighters. This new strategy comes at a time when a variety of factors have been threatening France's arms export policy: shrinking international arms market, increasing cost of weapons, and intensified competition. The collapse of the Soviet Union, compounded with economic recession, has led to the slowing or elimination of aircraft modernization programs. In this changing environment, is the concept of an independent French fighter industry more than a mirage? This report sheds new light on the prospects for the French fighter industry. It seeks to estimate the potential export sales of the Rafale over the next twenty years, to offer an independent estimate of the cost of the Rafale program and to compare it with published cost estimates, and to explore the viability of the Rafale program in light of these two estimates. To these ends, this paper considers both the demand for and the cost of the Rafale. Part I describes the inception of the Rafale program, the controversies which have surrounded it, and those aircraft which will compete most directly with it. Part II probes the potential global demand for fighters over the next two decades, and estimates the future demand for French fighters. Part III analyzes the cost of the Rafale, using DAPCA, a cost analysis model created at RAND. Finally, this paper considers the implications of these assessments for the future of the Rafale program and the French fighter industry.