In India, Dassault sees all hope of new Rafale order waning

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh (center) with French Defense Minister Florence Parly (right) and Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, pose together during the delivery of the first Rafale to India, October 8, 2019, in Mérignac (Gironde).
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh (center) with French Defense Minister Florence Parly (right) and Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, pose together during the delivery of the first Rafale to India, October 8, 2019, in Mérignac (Gironde). GEORGES GOBET / AFP

The Covid-19 epidemic takes an unexpected victim in India: the Dassault Aviation group. The latter is seeing its hopes of providing a good hundred additional Rafale to the giant of South Asia vanish. The French aircraft manufacturer, which received an order for 36 two-seater copies of this combat aircraft for 8 billion euros in September 2016, has just learned from the mouth of the new chief of staff of the Indian armies, that the call bid launched in April 2018 for the purchase of 114 other aircraft was in the process of being canceled. It is a market valued at 1,000 billion rupees (12.2 billion euros) that is likely to evaporate.

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“Indian Air Force is reorienting itself to light combat aircraft” products in the subcontinent, General Bipin Rawat told Bloomberg news agency on Thursday, May 14. In this case, Tejas LCA (Light Combat Aircraft). This is a huge disappointment for the French aircraft manufacturer, from whom India was originally to buy 126 Rafales, not 36. The first four deliveries were to take place this month, but the global health crisis in progress forced him to postpone them to July. Other manufacturers are at their expense, who also intended to submit an offer for the 114 new aircraft. Among them, the Americans Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the Swedish Saab and the Russian Soukhoï.

Le Tejas, plane “made in India”

Faced with a historic economic slowdown in 2019, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth falling below 5% – when it approached 9% just over two years ago – the Indian economy is taking the full impact of the coronavirus epidemic and now risks falling into recession. Under these conditions, Delhi can no longer afford to get equipment from foreign suppliers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear at the end of April, indicating that the country would only recover by producing “Local”.

Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies in Delhi, said General Rawat’s position “At the very least puzzled”, taking into account the external risks to which India is exposed. The defense budget should be cut in 2020 from 4.8 billion euros to 9.7 billion, explains this expert in theHindustan Times dated May 20, as border incidents continue to occur in the midst of a pandemic with Pakistan in Kashmir and with China in Ladakh in the Himalayas.

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