January 21, 2015

Airbus team coming, Rafale deal by March end, say sources

Even as India is to discuss again France the $22 billion deal to supply 126 Dassault Rafale fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, a big team from Airbus is set to land in India on January 21, ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit. The timing of the visit is significant, say informed sources.
Airbus which had held 46.32 per cent of Dassault Aviation, had sold 8 per cent of the company back to Dassault for $979 million late last year, said sources, adding that most of the parts of the Rafale fighter jets would come from Airbus. Top officials visiting India at this time is aimed at ensuring France’s credibility as a reliable supplier of weapons, according to sources.
Costly delay

The Rafales deal has been hanging fire ever since Dassault Aviation won the contract in 2007. The original conditions had implied production of the initial 18 aircraft in France, with the remaining 108 to be manufactured at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility, under a technology transfer agreement.
“The $22 billion order is not the problem. The work share pattern of the 108 aircraft to be made in India is the bone of contention,” said an official in the know, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Of the 108 aircraft, will HAL manufacture 100 per cent, or 60 per cent, or 30 per cent of each jet, it is being worked out. Since there are several other Indian manufacturers who would supply and manufacture the rest of the parts, their names and work shares are all being sorted out,” said the official.
Sources said that both sides have been haggling over clauses in the proposed contract. While Dassault has offered the latest version of the Rafale, fighter, the F3R for nearly double the price of the F3 version it had originally bid for in the Indian fighter aircraft competition, India has also been insisting on over licensed production, and that the aircraft should be assembled in India.
Another official insisted that the Rafale deal was nearing a solution since, “out of the four major contracts, three are signed and in the dock. One contract is in the last stages.” The official added that the spate of visits to India by the French authorities recently also pointed to a deal closure, “since several Indian sub contractors have already been identified by the French authorities during their visit to India in February and March last year.”
High tech platform

Rafale has been termed the most advanced combat aircraft of its generation, and draws on sophisticated onboard electronic systems to carry out a wide range of missions. Thales provides equipment and systems, including avionics, that together account for approximately one third of the total value of each Rafale.
Thales is a global player in electronics and systems serving the defence and aerospace sector. “The new generation Thales AFSA RBE2 radar is the largest sensor on board the Rafale. The RBE2, Europe’s first Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, takes combat system performance to a new level,” said Antoine Caput, Vice President and Country Director, Thales in India, speaking about the capabilities of the RBE2, a multirole radar developed for the Rafale combat aircraft.
Sources have indicated that the Rafale deal could be sealed by March 31. The Thales India Country Director refused comment. 


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