France Preparing to Offer Rafale Jets to Ukraine as MiG-29 Replacement

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France is preparing the ground to offer Dassault Rafale jets to Ukraine as replacement for the ageing MiG-29 fighters.

The offer is expected to be placed during an upcoming official visit to Kyiv of French President Emmanuel Macron. The dates of the tour have not been announced yet but French Ambassador to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins said in February 2021 to Interfax-Ukraine, “my expectation is that this visit could occur by the end of the first semester (of 2021).”

In May 2020, Kiev adopted the “Air Force Vision 2035” plan in order to modernize its combat aviation by bringing it up to NATO standards. In accordance with this, a tender is expected to be called to supply 4.5 generation multirole combat aircraft interoperable with NATO military assets.

The Ukrainian defence ministry has proposed an investment of approximately 7.5 billion Euros to buy new fighter jets. The plan is to acquire 6 to 12 new combat aircraft between 2023 and 2025 and 30 aircraft in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

While the U.S. is keen to offer its F-16V ‘Viper’ jets to  Ukraine, Sweden’s Saab is pitching in with its Gripen. However, fresh from sales success in Greece, Paris has an advantage over its competitors: a commercial system including loans and guarantees is said to be in place. Paris could guarantee a possible Rafale contract up to 85%. A chest of  1.5 billion Euros has already been provided for this purpose by the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, media reports said.

French media noted that Paris “can count” on Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, as during his tenure as the Interior Minister, Kyiv purchased 55 Airbus helicopters and OCEA-class patrol boats.

However, the U.S. has been eyeing relatively large deals in Ukraine in return for military aid to the former Soviet Bloc nation, which totaled $125 million in 2020. In addition, political support to Kiev has played a big part in upping the bargaining power of Ukraine in its fight against Russia over the latter’s annexation of Crimea.

Some recent developments point to Ukraine being keen to get into the supply chain of NATO nations. It has opened talks with Brazil to develop missiles for Gripen jets that the South American nation has purchased.