General François Lecointre is in his role when he expresses his fears, but these are more theoretical than real, in fact the information coming from our proposals to Finland shows us that the Rafale has an operational life of 9000 h and is capable of being used at a rate of 350 h over a month and 1000 h over a year! It is therefore likely that the limit in force in France of 250 h per year is only to protect the potential for a 30-year service life."All we want is obviously delivery dates for these aircraft that will allow the French Air Force to sustain this effort," explained General François Lecointre, the French Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces [CEMA], last October. "Therefore, either these two prospects are linked in time, and at that moment, the effort will be sustainable, or we will be unable to do so, at the risk of significant gaps in operational and organic terms," he added.
Under these conditions, 300 h per year could have been consumed. But as we did not know this, we consumed 250 hours per year!
We therefore have a "reserve" of hours that we have saved, which I will calculate approximately.
We produced operational aircraft for the air force from 2006 to 2016 (only 1 aircraft in 2017, I'm neglecting) that is 10 years, and we had 106 aircraft for the air force (and space). During this time we flew 10*106 * 250/2 = 132500 hrs to which we must add the last four years, i.e. 4*106*250= 106000 hrs, i.e. 238500 hrs in all (at the end of the year).
We saved 1/5 of this quantity, i.e. 47500 h.
This reserve allows us to ensure the transition to make the export deliveries. But even without this reserve we could manage the situation as explained below.
This transition would take 9 years: 3 years for the production of the new planes during which the remaining planes must consume more than their normal annual potential. 2 neutral years where the new aircraft would provide the extra hours that compensate for the levies and 4 years where the new aircraft would reimburse the hours that have been lost, allowing the old aircraft to consume less than their normal annual potential.
The "second-hand" sale to Greece is justified by the urgency of the need and it is therefore likely that we will choose aircraft that are as recent as possible. On the other hand, the second-hand sale to Croatia is justified by the need to lower the bill but without the urgency being as great, which gives a target of 2024 for the delivery of these aircraft.
There will remain in the Air Force 106 - 24 = 82 Aircraft which will have to ensure 106 *250 = 26500h or 323 hours per aircraft for 3 years, then new aircraft will be available which can be overused. They will have to provide 6,000 hours per year to compensate for the shortfall due to the levy. The first year we will produce 12 Rafale which means that we will have on average 6 to fly. We will limit ourselves to 500 hours per year for these new planes, which will only make up 3000 hours, so the 82 planes will have to fly 287 hours. The second year we will have an average of 15 planes available which will be able to produce 7500 h and thus the beginning of the under consumption of the 82 air force planes.
With the sale to Greece we will lose 7000*12 = 84000 hrs and with the sale to Croatia we will lose 4500 *12 = 54000 hrs, so we have to buy back 15 planes with 9000 hrs of potential, but we have decided to buy back 24 of them just to ensure the load at Dassault.