French Dassault is THE MMRCA of IAF; Wins €7.9 Euro tender

To the envy of its troubling neighbours China and Pakistan, India is set to induct 126 French Dassault in its Air Force. On Tuesday it selected Dassault for its €7.9 Euro MMRCA global tender.

New Delhi: 82 year old French aircraft manufacturer of military, regional and business jets, Dassault Aviation, has won worlds’ largest arms importer India’s mammoth contract worth $10.4 billion or 7.9 billion Euro. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had announced global tender in August 2007 for acquiring 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) over the next ten years. The new fleet will fill the gap between IAF’s future Light Combat Aircraft and in-service Su-30MKIs.

IAF has been feeling the need for more than a decade now. In the year 2000 it expressed its intent to acquire the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21s. India’s plans of developing its own indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) has been running into one after another rough weather for decades.

IAF sought the permission to buy 50 French Mirage-2000s as a stop-gap arrangement but the Defence ministry asked it to instead issue a larger MMRCA tender. The initial MMRCA tender was issued in 2005 but it was withdrawn. Finally it came in August 2007.

In February 2008 US majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, France’s Dassault, European consortium EADS, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and Sweden’s SAAB submitted their bids. The six contenders for the world’s biggest defence deal showcased Russian MiG- 35, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Falcon, Boeing’s F-18 Hornet, the Swedish Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale.

There were reports in 2009 that Dassault and SAAB are out of the race. In April 2011 EADS and Dassault are selected while other four contenders are rejected. After evaluating commercial offers from EADS and Dassault Aviation, Dassault emerges as the L1 (lowest bidder). The difference however is just $5 million considered exceptionally small for such a big deal.

The Eurofighter bid was backed by Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, the four partner nations. The Dassault Rafale had French Government’s backing. India is already building 6 French Scorpene submarines. It is being hailed as a major success for French President Nicholas Sarokozy who is facing a difficult re-election challenge in May 2012.

According to expers India’s familiarity with French fighter jets such as the Mirage swung the deal in Dassault’s favor. Dassault won a $1.4 billion contract to upgrade India’s Mirage fleet in 2011.

French President expressed happiness at India’s selection of the French aircraft Dassault after a very high-level, fair and transparent competition involving two European finalists, said the French Embassy in New Delhi.

Now Indian Defence Ministry will hold exclusive negotiations with Dassault Aviation SA. Negotiations will likely last for weeks, and the contract is not likely to be signed before the end of the current fiscal year. It might extend upto the next financial year.

As per the initial details, the first 18 aircraft will be delivered in “fly away” condition within 36 months and the remaining 108 will be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. through technology transfers.

Beginning 2017, India will also be inducting 214 fifth-generation fighter aircraft it is already jointly developing with Russia.

The Dassault deal is the first foreign deal for Dassault’s fighter jets The Rafale. It was rejected by Singapore, South Korea, Morocco and Switzerland earlier. Dassault shares jumped as much as 137 euros, or 22 percent, to 749 euros in Paris reported Bloomberg. Majority of Dassault stock is held by Dassault family. European Aerospace, Defense & Space Co., the co-producer of the competing Typhoon, owns 46 percent.

It was first introduced in French Air Force in 2000 and is in service for the French Air Force since 2006. It was part of the NATO air campaign in Libya in 2011.



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