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France betting on ACCaP scrap to enforce the Rafale.

| 2018

By Nathan Gain

What if France was betting on the ACCaP program scrap ? In a note unveiled by the Belgian economic newspaper L'Echo, Paris contradicts the legal advices the Belgian MoD asked for, and specifies that the country may legally interrupts its RfGP without fear of legal repercussions from the two other contenders, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin.

France betting on accap scrap to impose rafale 001 A French Air Force Rafale fighter jet
(Credit: Dassault Aviation)

Belgium can definitely conduct bilateral discussions on France's strategic partnership proposal in parallel with the ongoing RfGP, says the legal note issued by the French government. In this document, French legal experts believe that reviewing the military and economic partnership proposed by Paris "would not present any risk for the Kingdom of Belgium". Yesterday, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir confirmed that Paris will not submit a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) on the fateful date, February 14.

First of all, the French document says the RfGP "is not a call for tenders intended for companies within a logic of equal access to the official tender, but it offers guidelines to governments to develop proposals to Belgium, to conduct the discussion and to allow Belgium to make a sovereign choice between different proposals". In other words, Belgium remains totally sovereign, including in the choice of a procedure.

For Paris, this means that "a contracting authority may abandon an acquisition process by declaring it closed." And would open the way "to an intergovernmental agreement of cooperation with France".

However, Paris' new gamble is unlikely to succeed, as Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput seems determined to carry out the ACCaP program within the rules defined by the RfGP.

The Belgian government has not yet made an official announcement about the French proposal, which placed the ACCaP program on a much more political level. On his side, Steven Vandeput, confirmed that his position "has not changed regarding the French effort. I did not receive a legal opinion contradicting the two previous ones," he said on February 7 to the Chamber of Representatives' National Defense Comittee.

Meawhile, the official RfGP is ongoing, and the date of submission is still set for tomorrow. The only two BAFOs which will be taken into account are those sent by the two state agencies promoting the Lockheed Martin F-35A and the BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon.

Belgium approved in December 2016 the purchase of 34 new fighter aircraft to be acquired from Spring 2018 for an amount of 3,573 billion euros ($4.2 bn). Two contenders are officially competing: Lockheed Martin with its F-35A JSF, and BAE Systems with the Eurofighter Typhoon.




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