Bengaluru: French defence major Dassault Aviation Wednesday said the company would be more than happy to supply more Rafale fighter jets to India but it would need a minimum order for 100 aircraft for any local manufacturing to happen.
“If the government of India wants, we would be more than happy (to supply more Rafale jets)” Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said at Aero India 2019.
In 2016, India signed up Dassault to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets in a defence deal that has been embroiled in a controversy over the past few months over corruption allegations.
‘I have the experience’
On the contentious issue of the selection of industrialist Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offset partner under the Rafale deal and not the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Trappier said he was free to choose the partner under the offset rules.
He pointed out that this was unlike the earlier negotiations for 126 aircraft in which HAL was the prerequisite as mentioned in the Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.
Responding to criticism that Reliance Defence didn’t have defence manufacturing experience, Trappier said, “I have the experience and I am transferring the know-how to the Indian partner.”
Trappier also highlighted that Rafale is one of the fighter aircraft in contention for a new proposed multi-billion-dollar deal for 114 fighter jets that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is seeking.
He said he is confident of bagging the contract as he believed that Rafale was the best fighter.
Asked what would be the minimum order of fighter planes he is looking at before committing to manufacturing them in India, he said, “about 100”.
Speaking about the political controversy around the 2016 contract, Trappier said he wasn’t disappointed but sad.
The Dassault CEO said Rafale will be the backbone of India’s defence for years to come.
Trappier refused to comment on the political slugfest but said that all negotiations happened between the governments of the two countries.
Meanwhile, the deputy chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, led several other senior officers in flying the French fighter jet at the Aero India show in Bengaluru.
The IAF had successfully conducted the inaugural test flight of the first Rafale manufactured for India on 20 September 2018.