The first Rafale fighter jets will be delivered to India in 2019 and France is in discussions to assist in the domestic next generation Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA) as part of the offset obligations of the fighter jet deal, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier has said. The French side, however, feels that a larger order of close to 200 Rafale jets would be ideal to transfer high-end technology and manufacturing capabilities to India at a “competitive level”.
Answering a query by ET, Trappier said Dassault is ready to assist India with its fighter jet programmes. "We have already discussed with Indian agencies and have proposed that our capabilities be integrated. We have started the discussions as part of the offset framework, Trappier said, adding that the company is keen to partner India for the project.
The Dassault CEO made a strong case for the Rafale for an upcoming Indian Navy requirement for carrier borne jets, saying the Rafale is the only jet with dedicated air force and naval versions. "We want to continue beyond the 36 jets on order. The requirement is around 200 jets for India and a naval order as well," he said.
Dassault, however, believes that the current order of 36 jets would not be sufficient to transfer high-end manufacturing or technology to India. Trappier said extra orders would need to be placed by 2017-18 to come up with a larger Make in India plan that would involve shifting heavy work.
On choosing Reliance Defence to be a major offset partner, Dassault said its main Indian partner in the past - HAL - was busy with several projects like the light combat aircraft and the choice was to go with a new entrant into the defence field.
"We were told that HAL was fully booked. We talked to Reliance and they were very keen to create such capabilities in India. They have a track record and the financial capability as well," Trappier said. Dassualt said there would be other Indian partners as part of the offset programme also as the company does not have an exclusive agreement with Reliance.
The Indian Air Force has made it clear that it needs much more of the medium combat jets in the Rafale category over the coming years. The air force has said India requires 200-250 more aircraft in the middle weight category of fighters that the Rafale falls into. Global aviation giants like Dassault, Airbus, Boeing and Saab are closely watching Indian moves to select a combat aircraft for a new fighter production line.