Rafale contracts: M88 exports take off

2015 is already a historical year for the Rafale, which has recorded its first orders for “export” markets: Egypt then Qatar have ordered 24 aircraft each. This is great news for Safran, which has a large number of systems onboard the Rafale and is powering it with Snecma’s M88 engines. Rémy Letscher, Warfighter Engine Program Director at Snecma (Safran), told us about these sales success stories and the industrial challenges.

What do the first Rafale export contracts represent? 

These contracts are historical for Snecma: they are opening the door into exports markets for our M88 engines for the first time ever. So it's a huge reward for all the people who believed in this program that kicked off 30 years ago. These export sales are the result of the trust-based relationships we have built with Qatar and Egypt over the years. Egypt now has our full engine range: the Larzac for the Alpha Jet, Atar for the Mirage 5, M53 for the Mirage 2000 and, soon, the M88 for the Rafale. This is a powerful symbol, and shows that the quality of the support we have been providing for these customers was one of the decisive factors that led to the Rafale contract.


Are the sales prospects encouraging beyond Egypt?

We've broken into the export market. The first contract is always the toughest to land. We've signed it now and we're certain it will prompt our other potential customers to commit soon. India has already said it is planning to purchase 36 planes. We're confident looking forward because the Rafale and its M88 engines bring first-class performance and technologies, as well as unparalleled serviceability, to armed forces around the world. The M88 integrates so seamlessly into the Rafale airframe that two maintenance operators can remove the engine and fit it back onto the plane in less than an hour.


How will this reshape production and the industrial organization at Snecma?

Now that we have signed the first two export contracts, we have more than 100 engines in our order backlog. Our capacity is sized to support this ramp-up. At the end of May, we delivered one batch of engines for Egypt's Rafale aircraft, which should be flying for the first time this August – over the Suez Canal. We're also planning to step up our spare parts and modules production plan. Another important aspect of this contract involves mapping out and rolling out engine support, i.e. training customer staff and providing tooling, documentation and technical assistance at the base.


Facts and figures

● 365 M88 engines delivered to date

● M88 engines unleash maximum thrust in 4 seconds

● M88 engines have flown for 380,000 hours since they entered service with the French Air Force


Safran on the Rafale

● Snecma: M88 engines for the Air Force and Navy versions

● Aircelle: M88 composite parts

● Herakles: M88 thermostructural composite nozzles  

● Hispano-Suiza: M88 power transmission system

● Sagem: M88 Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), laser-gyro inertial navigation system, fly-by-wire gyroscopes, "Hammer" AASM (Modular Air-to-Ground Weapon) system

● Messier-Bugatti-Dowty: landing gear, carbon brakes, wheels, braking system, steering system, landing-gear extension-retraction system, hydraulic generator

Labinal Power Systems: wiring

● Microturbo: Rubis 3 start-up system (APU), including the ATS-305 starter

SEMMB, a 50/50 joint venture by Safran and Martin Baker Aircraft: ejection seat