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.