Likely postponing of Rafale deliveries exposes the vulnerability of smaller production lines to COVID-19 disruption

Following the news that Dassault will likely have to postpone the delivery of four Rafale fighter jets to India;

Nicolas Jouan, Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on Dassault’s situation;

“The lockdown imposed by the French Government, recently extended until mid-May at least, has imposed an interruption of work on Dassault’s assembly line in Bordeaux-Mérignac. In normal times, Dassault’s factory can build 3 Rafale aircrafts per month at full-rate production, a relatively low number in comparison to Lockheed Martin and affiliated assembly lines producing around 15 F-35 units per month.

“Such a tight output places production under immediate pressure as interruption of work goes beyond a month. The Rafale battled for a long time on the export market because of its high cost per unit compared to platforms such as the Gripen E. But successive orders from India, Egypt and Qatar since 2015 changed the situation. In order to fill the total export commitment of 96 units, Dassault increased its production output from one unit per month to three back in 2018, and the French Government paused its own delivery plan to let the plane maker focus on exports. The company therefore entered the COVID-19 crisis with very few room of manoeuver, and will likely be impacted by it.”

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