How has the business environment changed for you over the past year?
As this interview is taking place, the most significant development is obviously the conflict in Ukraine. In addition to being a humanitarian catastrophe, this war is also a historical tragedy that forces us to face up to fundamental truths — as Charles de Gaulle once said, “National defense is the primary raison d’être of the state.” Certain Europeans had forgotten this fact. For its part, Dassault Aviation has always been committed to serving the French armed forces. We are scrupulously applying the sanctions decided by the international community, and we are diversifying our purchasing, particularly with regard to strategic materials.
The concerns and uncertainties generated by the return of war to European soil have overshadowed the health crisis. Moreover, although Covid continued to be a concern in 2021, the response to the pandemic was more effective, in particular thanks to extensive vaccination campaigns. The severe depression of 2020 has thus given way to a massive, if uneven, global economic recovery: some industries remain in difficulty, commodity and energy prices have risen sharply, and shortages of labor and electronic components have emerged.
In Europe and the United States, inflation has risen to a level not seen in decades, leading to social tensions and higher interest rates. As for the French aerospace industry, the support measures put in place by the government and the industry itself have proved effective. The major manufacturers have held up well and the supply chain remains operational, albeit in need of consolidation.
How has Dassault Aviation fared?
We’ve had some major successes. We signed Rafale contracts with Greece, France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia: 177 Rafales in total, including 49 in FY 2021 and 128 in FY 2022 – after the contracts take effect. This is unprecedented. The Emirates order alone, for 80 fighters, is the largest in our history. In terms of production, the scheduled 25 Rafales have all been delivered.
This performance in the military market has been accompanied by a sharp upturn in sales of business jets, with 51 Falcon jets sold in 2021, compared with 15 in 2020. The same positive trend can be seen in manufacturing, where we delivered 30 Falcons — compared with forecasted sales of 25 —, thanks to the recovery of the American and European markets.
When it comes to support, we have further strengthened our market positions, both in terms of civil aviation (with another excellent AIN customer satisfaction rating) and in the military sector, where we signed a vertically-integrated support contract for the French Air and Space Force’s Mirage 2000 fighters.
In terms of development projects, much has been achieved, as evidenced by the first flight of the Falcon 6X and the launch of the Falcon 10X. The Rafale F4 and special-mission Falcon projects have made good progress. The Rafale’s capabilities are set to be further enhanced. As for the New Generation Fighter, a joint Franco-German-Spanish project, we have been designated as the project’s architect and prime contractor by the three countries involved. A sharply-defined program, with effective leadership, is essential to ensuring that deadlines, costs and performance targets are met.
Finally, implementation of our transformation plan, Leading our Future, which is based on digital technology and data management, continued in 2021; it involves the introduction of new methods, along with new collaborative platforms and enhanced facilities and resources. All of this has been made possible by the company’s resilience, agility and responsiveness, both in terms of services and production. Meanwhile, we have maintained an unyielding focus on the health and safety of our employees and their families.
How should we look to the future?
Our dual civil-military business model — which has enabled us to maintain a sound balance for more than 50 years – and our ongoing transformation — aimed at further improving our competitiveness — mean we can look to the future with confidence.
Our Rafale export contracts provide us with visibility beyond 2030, which is remarkable. In addition, we are planning to produce 82 Rafales for the French armed forces: 40 already on order and 42 scheduled to be ordered starting in 2023 (5th tranche).
In business aviation, the upturn in the market combined with the renewal of our range (6X and 10X) should lead to a sustained increase in sales. The strong performance of Falcon support will add to this momentum. I attach the utmost importance to the work carried out each and every day by our teams, across our extensive global network, to provide support for the 2,100 Falcon jets in service. We are doing the same for the 1,000 or so Dassault military aircraft currently in operation, with methods and tools that are increasingly being used in both civil and military aviation.
Finally, we are working on ambitious development projects that will ensure we maintain our skills and leadership capabilities, while at the same time reducing our environmental footprint.
Dassault Aviation remains committed to the same goals: to continue to serve our civil and military customers; to do our part to promote safe and sustainable aviation; and to safeguard France’s sovereignty and Europe’s strategic autonomy.