By Tim Hepher and Allison Lampert
PARIS (Reuters) - Dassault Aviation launched a new long-range "flying penthouse" on Thursday in a bid to challenge rivals serving the ultra-wealthy and heads of state at the top end of the luxury jet market.
The Falcon 10X will be the French planemaker's most powerful model, with a range of 7,500 nautical miles (13,890 km), and compete with high-end models offered by Canada's Bombardier and General Dynamics unit Gulfstream.
It will enter service in late 2025 and - in a first for a commercial jet - come equipped with Rolls-Royce Pearl engines designed to run entirely on sustainable aviation fuel, Dassault said.
It is also the first time Rolls-Royce has been picked to power any jet from Dassault, which had fallen out with France's Safran over a previous engine development problem.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and chronic volatility in demand for smaller business jets, the market for the industry's largest models has been propelled by the rising wealth of Asia.
Health has risen to the top of concerns of the targeted elite, alongside security and privacy.
"All the executives of the companies, the VIPs, they want to travel in a very safe way. They want to save time. And business aviation is really the answer," Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Eric Trappier said in a webcast.
"Vaccines should be the solution in order to smooth down the effects of such a virus. But we have to know we will have to live a long time with viruses, whether COVID-19 or another. So it's also good to have a business jet in order to fly safely."
Dassault's gamble drew a rapid riposte from rival Bombardier, whose best-selling 19-seat Global 7500 sells for the same price: $75 million in today's dollars.
"We're going to have even more (order) backlog and more airplanes in service," Chief Executive Eric Martel said.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Allison Lampert; Editing by Pravin Char)