New Delhi: Looking to increase its investment in India, French defence giant Dassault Aviation is game for manufacturing Rafale fighter jets in the country, and will make a fresh pitch for it to the Narendra Modi government, ThePrint has learnt.
French sources in the know of developments said Diplomatic Advisor to the French President, Emmanuel Bonne, who is on a visit to India, will make a pitch of the French government’s offer to make the Rafale fighters in India — if the numbers in play are closer to 100.
If a smaller number comes to pass, the French maker would not manufacture the Rafale in India as a whole but would increase the procurement of parts from the country, sources said.
The offer comes at a time when India is in the middle of induction of the 36 fighter jets ordered in 2016 by the Modi government. While these 36 jets were procured under the emergency clause, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is working on a tender for 114 new fighters.
However, there is speculation in Indian power corridors that it is easier for the country to buy another 36 Rafale fighters, along with indigenous Tejas Mk-2, than to opt for a fresh procurement process.
Top government sources told ThePrint that any call on additional Rafale fighter jets would be taken only after the delivery of the first 36 are complete. However, they noted that the Rafales are expensive.
In October 2020, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria had for the first time officially indicated that the decision to buy two more squadrons of Rafale fighter jets is under consideration.
Made in India Rafale
Speaking to ThePrint, a source said, “The French government has already told the Indian government that Rafale can be made in India if there are higher numbers. This will also be raised during the strategic level talks and interactions between the two sides at various levels.”
In 2017, France had written to the Modi government to opt for Make in India route for the Rafale jets.
Sources said Dassault Aviation is working on setting up a third hangar at the Nagpur facility, a joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
“The idea is to have five hangars in total. Dassault Aviation already manufacturers and procures engine doors and the canopy from India. The idea is to scale it up with time,” a source said.
On 11 June 2019, ThePrint reported that Dassault Aviation is likely to start manufacturing parts of Rafale fighter jets at its India facility even though it was not part of the original plans.
The Nagpur facility of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) started making cockpits for the French manufacturer’s Falcon business jets, besides other parts. The idea is to eventually build the Falcon 2000 entirely in India.
Higher order needed
Dassault Aviation would need a higher order of around 100 aircraft to start a Rafale production facility in India, said the sources. The chief executive of the French firm had said the same during the Aero India show in 2019.
“If that is done, Dassault Aviation will have two production lines, one in France and the other in India. The Indian plant will also produce Rafale for other countries,” a source said, pointing out that the fighter is in fray for orders from Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia and Switzerland.
Asked if there is a possibility for Make in India if the French get additional orders for lesser numbers, the sources said it would not be possible but the French firm will increase sourcing of parts from India.