Dassault Falcon touts flexibility of 8X and 7X twinjets for RAAF VIP fleet

The Dassault Falcon 8X on static display at the Singapore Airshow. (Dassault)
The Dassault Falcon 8X on static display at the Singapore Airshow. (Dassault)

Dassault Falcon Asia Pacific president Jean Michel Jacob says the Falcon 7X and 8X tri-jets have the flexibility to meet the Australian Government’s aircraft requirements as the clock ticks down to a decision following a long evaluation process for the replacement of its VIP fleet.

Jacob said the pair of Falcon tri-jets offered operators the range to head overseas as well as the short-field performance to operate into and out of smaller airfields.

“Clearly what we offer that which makes a difference to the competition is our flexibility,” Jacob told reporters at the Singapore Airshow on February 6.

“I know the Air Force wants an aircraft that could go to some challenging airfields. They want to be able to land with enough fuel to fly back, or at least to fly back to an intermediate airfield.

“And they want to make sure that whatever the circumstances are they can still operate with challenges that others will not be able to face.”

The Falcon 8X, the newest member of the Falcon family of business jets, is designed to enable non-stop flights such as Sydney-Mumbai, Hong Kong-London or Beijing-Los Angeles.

With a cabin length of 13 metres, the Falcon 8X is capable of flying eight passengers and three crew 6,450nm at a speed of 0.8 Mach. Further, the cabin could be configured up to 30 different ways, including the potential to install a shower in the lavatory. It entered service in 2016.

Meanwhile, there have been more than 270 Falcon 7X aircraft delivered since the aircraft entered service in 2007. Also a tri-jet, it has a slightly shorter cabin length (at 11.91m) and less range (at 5,950nm) when configured for eight passengers compared with the Falcon 8X.

Dassault Falcon has had its flagship Falcon 8X on display alongside sistership the Falcon 2000LXS twin-jet at the Singapore Airshow. It is the Falcon 8X’s first appearance at the Singapore Airshow.

The Dassault Falcon 2000LXS alongside the Falcon 8X at the Singapore Airshow. (Dassault)
The Dassault Falcon 2000LXS alongside the Falcon 8X at the Singapore Airshow. (Dassault)

In May 2017, Defence said it had completed a tender evaluation process for a managing contractor as part of a plan to replace the VIP transport service operated by the Royal Australian Air Force from mid-2019.

The managing contractor would manage the establishment, delivery and long-term sustainment of the new service on behalf of the Commonwealth.

“Defence is actively working with industry through a competitive, staged procurement process to develop considered options for the Special Purpose Aircraft fleet beyond current contract expiry in mid-2019,” a spokesperson for Defence told sister publication Australian Defence Business Review on May 4.

“Defence intends to present a range of potential options to Government for consideration, including revised support services and considerations for potential fleet replacement in the future.”

The process to replace the nation’s VIP fleet got underway in November 2015, when the Australian Government issued a request for proposal (RFP) entitled “Replacement Special Purpose Aircraft (SPA) Transport Service – Managing Contractor”.

The RFP, which closed in February 2016, sought a managing contractor to oversee the “establishment, delivery and long-term sustainment of the future SPA Service on behalf of the Commonwealth”. Two companies were shortlisted.

In August 2016, Defence initiated a project definition study to engage with the shortlisted respondents to collaboratively finalise contract requirements and develop a request for tender (RFT).

The RFT was then released to the two shortlisted companies in December 2016, and in February 2017 the industry respondents tabled their tenders to Defence.

Jacob said Dassault Falcon has provided information about its aircraft to the shortlisted candidates for their consideration.

“What we did is we have provided figures to both potential operators and to the Minister of Defence and it is their call on the way they want to have the aircraft operated. We have no say on that,” Jacob said.

“We are confident that we may win this deal. It doesn’t depend on us only but we have the feeling that our aircraft is rather appreciated by the end user.”

Meanwhile, Defence in 2017 exercised options that extended the SPA maintenance and support arrangement with Northrop Grumman Integrated Defence Services (IDS) until September 2019 to align with the lease terms of the current fleet.

Northrop Grumman IDS (previously Qantas Defence Services) has since 2001 delivered through-life support to 34 Squadron at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, which operates the current SPA fleet of two Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) and three Bombardier Challenger 604s.

All five aircraft, which are leased rather than Commonwealth-owned, entered service in 2002. They are still relatively young aircraft in terms of flying hours, with the fleet recently passing the 50,000 flying hour milestone.

Separate to the SPA process, the RAAF’s VIP capabilities will also be boosted with the delivery of a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport modified to support long-range government VIP transport needs due for delivery in late 2019.

Comments

  1. Chris says

    Considering the RAAF’s acquisition of the Gulfstream G550AEW for SIGINT and ELINT intelligence gathering, I would have thought that adding more G550 airframes for VIP transport would make both commercial and operational sense.

  2. Tutu says

    Chris, since a contractor will be operating these and providing “long term sustainment”, it probably won’t make any difference.

    If they were interested in value, keeping the current fleet a lot longer (given its low hours) would make even more sense.

  3. D bell says

    The reality is that while the bbjs are excellent mid range exc jets, they are running on 20th cent design tech. Australia has a long history of short changing itself. A modified 40 to 50 seat airbus 330 x2 should be the natural compliment to the current refueling fleet, that way you have flight crew and spares commonality. In terms of running “only 3 smaler jets, reality suggest 4 or 5 12 to 16 pax jet would represent a far better cost benefit, but as mentioned previously Aussie defence is not very good at getting the tail wager to agree.

  4. Ben says

    I’ve always thought the RAAF should go for the Boeing 777-200LR in VIP/BBJ configuration. (There are seating charts for this aircraft on the Boeing website in the BBJ section I think) Such an aircraft could probably conceivably do Canberra to Washington DC and Canberra to London non stop. Pretty handy if the prime minister was visiting the US president or the British PM. I think the main issue with the current 737 BBJ is there’s no room for a media contingent to travel on the same aircraft. That problem is solved with the 777. Potentially you could also look at the next gen 777, 787 or A350 for the same purpose.

    The Falcon is a good aircraft and has the third engine redundancy that governments look for – not that twin engine ops are an issue these days. However it still has the same lack of space issues of the 737. Also it would still be a one stop trip to Washington or London.

    For the ultimate and most flexible VIP fleet, I’d look at 6 aircraft of 3 different types:

    2x 777-200LR BBJ or similar aircraft for long haul and ultra long haul missions.
    2x mid size, mid range business jets (gulfstream or cessna citation) for domestic and short haul international missions
    2x turboprops (Kingair or maybe Q400/ATR aircraft) for short haul shuttles (like Canberra to Sydney) or any missions to remote areas that can’t accommodate jet operations.

    6 aircraft may seem a lot, but don’t forget it’s not just the PM that needs to travel. The Governor General would use them too. Also ministers (especially foreign affairs, trade and defence ministers) have frequent travel requirements.

  5. John N says

    At the end of the day the VIP fleet will continue to be leased airframes, so does it really matter if they are equivalent to RAAF ‘owned’ airframes or not? I don’t think so.

    If they were to be owned by the RAAF, then a mixed fleet potentially including G550, B737 or A330-200 would be appear to be appropriate for commonality and support.

    But they won’t, at the end of the day it will be up to the winning contractor to provide the best ‘back for buck’ and provide the appropriate levels of capability and availability too.

    From memory, I don’t think the RFP actually specified numbers or types of airframes (not publically at least), but I’m sure the various competitors will no doubt know what is required and what they will need to provide to deliver that capability.

    You would reasonably imagine that bizjet types such as the Falcon 8x and G550 will be in the mix and the larger B373 and A320 too, and at the very outside, the much larger A330.

    Moving beyond the ‘leased’ fleet, the RAAF will still be able to provide the one KC-30A that is going to be fitted with a VIP module at the top end and at the bottom the King Air 350’s too.

    Cheers,

    John N