I started my professional life in France, in 1965, as a technical writer concerned with the Cyrano radar system of Thomson-CSF for fighter aircraft. Later on, I worked in audiovisual production with my friend François de Rivals, former Dassault test pilot.
Last Thursday, February 25, 2010, a surprising article appeared in The Australian, signed by Cameron Stewart: Scientists warned defence department against Joint Strike Fighter [display]. The gist of this fascinating scoop is that a study carried out ten years ago by the internal group known as the DSTO [Defence Science and Technology Organisation] warned the federal government of the risks that would be incurred through a choice of the US aircraft known as the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter]. In spite of these warnings, the government of John Howard signed an order in 2002 to purchase a hundred JSFs for $16 billion: the biggest Australian defense purchase in history.
Today, I would not be particularly dismayed, retrospectively, by this secretive Aussie style of doing defense business were it not for the fact that the DSTO study contains scathing criticism of the other available options if Australia were to reject the JSF choice. These options included, in particular, the US F-15E and the French Rafale. According to the article in The Australian, the study concluded that the French aircraft had weaknesses described as follows:
— "France's Rafale had an unreliable and weak engine."
— "Rafale has short-term shortfalls in engine and radar performance."
Insofar as the virtual JSF product, at that time, existed only on paper, it can be said retrospectively that Australia plunged blindly into the US program, inspired primarily by Howard's attachments to his time-honored protector. Today, it's too late to change things, but the publication of last week's revelations in Australia demands an informal French reaction concerning the unjust criticism of the illustrious Rafale fighter, which is a proven masterpiece produced by Dassault Aviation.
Last December, during a giant international encounter organized by the United Arab Emirates, the Dassault Rafale, in spite of its "unreliable and weak engine" and its "shortfalls in engine and radar performance", proved itself a superior killer. Today, the only aircraft that is in fact technologically superior to the Dassault Rafale is the American F-22. But it costs three times the price of a Rafale, and it's not a polyvalent aircraft capable of air/ground and air/sea actions.
Meanwhile, the American JSF project seems to be moving head-first into a brick wall of technical and financial problems... whose consequences will be felt inevitably, sooner or later, by Australia.
Believe me (or rather, believe Dassault and the facts):
There's nothing wrong with the Rafale!