New Delhi: French company Dassault Aviation SA will continue its joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to manufacture aircraft components despite the latter being embroiled in litigation in India, slowing down its activities.
In India on a three-day visit, Dassault Aviation chairman and chief executive officer Eric Trappier on Monday also welcomed India’s recent formal request for information for the acquisition of 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.
Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter aircraft was the jet finally shortlisted by the Indian government for procurement of 126 medium-range multi-role aircraft in 2012 but differences over pricing as well as the inability to reach an agreement on technological transfer and doubts over India’s ability to build the plane locally were seen as the main reasons for the cancellation of the deal in 2015.
India had then announced that it would purchase 36 Rafales under a government-to-government deal with a possible follow-on order for another 36 aircraft.
On Monday, Trappier said the new request for information (RFI) put out by New Delhi was welcome because it opened new possibilities for manufacturing fighter jets in India by Dassault Aviation. “For this we need a certain quantity of orders because in order to be competitive we need (numbers) so the RFI has now identified 110 aircraft so I think it’s quite a good number. There is a new process, new procedure... so we are welcoming this new request," he said.
Trappier’s visit comes a little more than a week after India initiated the process of acquisition of the new fighter aircraft. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing from the US, Saab from Sweden and Dassault Aviation are among those likely to vie for the deal, worth an estimated $15 billion.
Under the new proposal seeking 110 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force, at least 85% of the jets have to be made in India, giving a big push to the Make in India programme.
Trappier’s visit also comes a month after French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India.
When asked if Dassault Aviation would continue its partnership with Reliance when bidding for the 110 aircraft under the new RFI issued by the Indian government, Trappier said Dassault was loyal to its partners.
“We are going to prepare for the RFI. There is a process for the RFI which is to be followed by a RFP (request for proposal). We have a partnership with Reliance, part of the offset obligations of the Rafale deal. It was our choice, we continue with our choice."
Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd, in which the French company holds a 49% stake, is to make components for the Legacy Falcon 2000 series of civil aircraft and be part of its global supply chain. Trappier said production of the Falcon would begin as scheduled from 2018.
Trappier added that his company was committed to the transfer of technology; it was part of the French government’s commitment too.