Dassault Targets Indian Rafale Deal This Year Amid Export Push

Dassault Aviation SA, maker of the Rafale combat jet, said it may sign an export deal with India by year’s end as the company targets more overseas sales.

Talks are focused on Indian license production and component manufacture for 126 fighters with options for 63 more, Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier told reporters in Paris today. Trappier said there were no obstacles to an agreement, although talks “have been pretty hard-nosed.”

India last year selected the Rafale as its future multi-role combat plane in the first export win for the French plane that had trailed rivals in orders outside its home market. Dassault is also targeting business from countries that are reconsidering buying the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the plane’s cost increases.

“The Rafale is a model, unlike the F-35, whose development has been going on and on and is running into development and budget problems,” Trappier said.

Canada is exploring whether to remain an F-35 customer, with a planned purchase of 65 jets, as Dassault tries to convince the government to change course.

“Canada is a significant country for us,” Trappier said, adding that Rafale’s combat experience in Mali and Libya has been presented to the country.

Several European states, including Denmark and the Netherlands, also are reviewing their combat plane plans, although Trappier is less optimistic of making inroads there.

Other potential Rafale buyers include Malaysia, where Trappier said talks have started to find industrial partners in case Dassault wins a pending competition. Malaysia could get a final assembly line for Rafale if it is ready to pay, he said.

Brazil, where the Rafale is battling the Boeing Co. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab AB Gripen, has repeatedly deferred a selection, and Trappier said “it looks like the matter of fighters is a little bit asleep.”

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