Which is both a recipe for construction problems and also a one size fits all solution rather than a custom fit for the job we want. It's trying to please a hell of a lot of people all at the same time.
I'm not sure about Rafale, but the other alternative, the one the yanks currently use is the one I am in two minds about.
It's proven and probably competatively priced but the range is no great shakes I thought.
But I don't think we need to buy the higest tech plane EVAR.
The point about carrier based air power to my mind is that you deploy where the enemy isn't defending. At his weakest point.
Any solid workhorse will do.
The tactical advantage of a naval air arm is in the manouvre phase rather then the combat phase.
And lets face it, given that we currently have nothing at all, even a Fairey Swordfish would be a significant improvement. A navalised Apache is another serious option in my mind. I'm not unconditionally married to the concept of fixed wing at all.
I have the uncomfortable feeling that it's fighting the last war and not the next, or in this case, WW2.
Almost like how building dreadnoughts in the carrier age was.
F-35 would be sweet, but I'd ditch it on the spot if it isn't going to be ready in time for the carriers.
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.