Dassault Aviation has reached a firm agreement with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) over workshare for the 126 Rafale fighters that the country has agreed to buy. The agreement was confirmed on Thursday at Dassault’s annual financial results press conference in Paris by CEO Eric Trappier. The agreement covers the general configuration of the aircraft, the technology transfers and the detailed workshare between the two partners and their subcontractors. Also, it clarifies the mechanism for handling warranties, said Trappier.
“It’s a major step before signing the final contract,” said Trappier, noting that this landmark could come in “the next weeks or months.” The contract is estimated to be worth between $10- and $15 billion, but that has not been confirmed by Dassault.
Out of the 126 Rafales, 18 will be built in France in the Dassault Aviation facilities. The next 106 fighters will be built in India with a stepped transfer of responsibilities. The technology transfers account for up to 50 percent of the value of the contract. Dassault estimates that it would take roughly three-and-a-half years to deliver the first Indian Rafale.
Trappier also reported that India is “not the sole country where we could sell Rafale.” Dassault has answered an RFI from Canada, a country that, according to the Dassault CEO, is studying canceling its F-35 JSF purchase because of the high cost of the Lockheed Martin fighter. Dassault is in preliminary talks with Canadian manufacturers so as to be ready to sign an industrial agreement if Canada decides to cancel its 65-aircraft F-35 purchase. “It’s challenging, but if Canada cancels, Rafale will be in the race for sure,” he said.
Dassault is cautious about other possible export markets for the Rafale. In the United Arab Emirates, talks on a 60-Rafale purchase are proceeding with a “new roadmap,” according to Trappier, who declined to comment further. Dassault Aviation has answered the RFI issued by Qatar. “We are confident because Qatar is an old partner for Dassault; it has 12 Mirage 2000-5s,” said Trappier, but he declined to comment on a possible purchase of the Rafale by Malaysia, except to note that Dassault has made a proposal based on the supply of 18 aircraft.
Last year, Dassault delivered 11 Rafales to French forces, and a similar number is scheduled for this year. Deliveries are now to the latest F3R standard, which includes the Thales AESA radar and the capacity to fire the Meteor missile, as certified by the DGA (Délégation Générale à l’Armement).
Regarding the Neuron UCAV demonstrator, Dassault has undertaken radar cross-section measurements “with success,” said Trappier, and made approximately 20 test flights, mainly in France. This year, another 20 test flights are scheduled to open up the flight envelope.