No more Rafale fighter jets if no foreign orders: France

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French plane manufacturer Dassault will halt production of its Rafale fighter jet if it remains unable to sell any abroad, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said on Wednesday.

"If Dassault doesn't sell any Rafales abroad, the production line... will be stopped" once France has received the 180 aircraft it has ordered, Longuet said, adding that maintenance arrangements would continue for completed aircraft.

Longuet said that French Rafale orders alone would keep the production line going until 2018 "at least".

Then "it will be over for the manufacturer, not for the user," he said.

Asked why Dassault was having trouble selling the plane abroad, Longuet said the multirole jet was "more expensive than American planes which are produced in much greater numbers."

"While we order 200 Rafales for a 10-15 year programme, the Americans make 3,000 aircraft," he said.

"However, for top level missions of high military value, the Rafale is undeniably well-positioned."

Longuet said that the Rafale remained in competition with European manufacturer EADS' Eurofighter for a large Indian contract and that "we are in tough negotiations with the United Arab Emirates."

© 2011 AFP

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