France Willing to Sell its Dassault-built Rafale Fighter Jets to Ukrainian Air Force – French Media

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Two seater configuration of the Dassault-built multirole fighter jet Rafale B / Photo Courtesy of Dassault Aviation
Two seater configuration of the Dassault-built multirole fighter jet Rafale B / Photo Courtesy of Dassault Aviation

The French offer is said to be at top of the agenda for French President Emmanuel Macron's upcoming visit to Ukraine

The Ukrainian government has made it known in Paris and Washington that it is looking for U.S. or EU-built, 4++ gen fighter jets to replace its Soviet era MiG-29s and Su-27s.

These intentions were reported by Intelligence Online, a French website that specializes in security matters.

Read more: Ukrainian army receives upgraded fighter
Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force
A pair of Dassault Rafale jets in service with the Egyptian Air Force / Photo Courtesy of Dassault Aviation

Kyiv is hesitating between light fighters, like the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and a heavier, multi-role fighter, such as Dassault’s Rafale, Intelligence Online has reported.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force
Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 fighter jet owned by the Bahrain Air Force / Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

French analysts at Intelligence Online reckon that – in a competition for replacement of Ukraine’s aging Soviet-era MiG-29/Su-27 fighter jet fleets -- Dassault Rafale and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would be the favorites.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters

The potential contract for multirole fighters replacing Ukraine’s Soviet-era fleet of MiG-29s and Su-27s would purportedly top the agenda for French President Emmanuel Macron's upcoming visit to Ukraine, which was originally slated for end of March by then postponed until a later date.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force
Rafale DH fighter jet built by Dassault for the Indian Air Force (tail number RB 002) / Photo credit: G. Gosset / Dassault Aviation

The French government of Emmanuel Macron is hopeful that the Dassault-built Rafale has every chance of winning the tender in the former Russian industry bastion of Ukraine, thanks to having a significant commercial apparatus already in place, according to Intelligence Online.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force
American fighter aircraft F/A-18F Super Hornet (left side) and F/A-18A Hornet (right side)

The French website probably is talking about an array of running Franco-Ukrainian contracts that include deliveries of 55 Airbus-built helicopters (H225, H145 and Н125) and 20 OCEA S.A. light patrol boats (OCEA FPB98MKI) to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, with cash loaned from French government.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force modernization
An Airbus-built H225 helicopter fielded to Ukraine’s State Service for Emergencies under a 2018 contract

Since Ukraine is cash-strapped, the Rafale deal, like other French defense contracts in Ukraine, would be 85% guaranteed by France. The French finance ministry has already earmarked €1.5 billion to cover this.

The Intelligence Online report makes mention of Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov, who, it claims, lobbied for and assisted in the signing of the helicopter and patrol boat deals.

Meanwhile, the French proposal may suffer a blow from the U.S. intent to see the FA-18 presented to the Ukrainian authorities in the near future, as the Biden administration looks to beef up its support to Kyiv.

Congress is already providing generous defense and security aid to Ukraine, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which the country today would struggle to manage without, Intelligence Online says.

Washington also provides other forms of assistance to the Ukrainian defense industry, with a number of US officials seconded to defense and security sector entities, among them the defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom.

Dassault Rafale, Ukraine Air Force modernization
Twin-jet Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet (top left side) and Dassault Rafale (right side top), while being more capable, are also significantly more expensive to buy versus the single-jet "light" fighters F-16 and JAS-39. Recent modifications of Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 Viper (left side bottom) and Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen (rigt side bottom).

For record, Ukraine’s Air Force was previously considering the purchase of light multi-role fighters, such as Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG or Lockheed Martin F-16V – a prudent approach given the country’s lean defense budget. After all, a light, single-jet fighter is not just cheaper to buy, but a lot more cheaper to maintain during life cycle relative to heavier, twin-jet aircraft like Boeing F-18 or Dassault Rafale (a fighter aircraft can be several times cheaper to buy than to maintain over life cycle).

Read more: Ukraine Developing New UCAV to be known as Sokil-200