Monday, 21 March 2011

Rafale vs Typhoon - welcome to the arms bazaar

No matter how well intentioned the Ministry of Defence briefing this morning somtimes felt like it was descending into a powerpoint sales pitch for lazer-guided weaponry.

The generals told us how stand-off missiles, fired from miles away are "accurate to within four metres", while they emphasised the restraint and the intelligence of the British forces.

They were, incidentally, also more on the ball about the mission statement, to protect civilians, and not to decapitate Muhammar Gaddafi.

War is always good for business, I thought, as we went through the capabilities of the various instruments of destruction, and business is always in competition for orders.

I suspect from the arms industry's point of view one of the most, er, interesting commercial competitions over the skies of Libya in the coming days will be between France's Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Rafale is France's own version of Eurofighter, developed after the Eurofighter project nearly fell apart in 1985. Ironically, the French wanted a version of the jet that could take-off and land on carriers, something the British saw as un-necessary at the time.

Now, after a savage defence review that scrapped the Harrier fleet and mothballed the second Super-carrier, Britain is having to retro-fit the Super-carrier design to enable cat and trap landings and change the Eurofighter to fit.

We all expected the Tornados to be in action over Libya but, as far as I'm aware(I'm not a defence expert, mind), this is the first combat deployment for the Typhoons.

Each of the allied airforces will be out there to prove their gear is the is best in show.

If you're in the market for a multi-role combat aircraft Rafales cost about 70m Euros per unit, the Typhoon is about 90m Euros a go, and are available from the more reputable parts of the military-industrial complex.

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