Eric Trappier, chairman of the €3.6 billion Dassault Aviation, was recently in India to lay the foundation stone of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL’s) manufacturing facility at Mihan in Nagpur. With production from DRAL expected to start as early as 2018 and the first Rafale expected to land in India in 2019, Mr. Trappier talks about Dassault’s future plans and getting repeat orders for Rafale combat jets from the Indian government. Edited excerpts:
When can we expect the first Rafale to land in India?
As we have planned, the first Rafale should land in India in 2019. It’s on track.
How many Rafale jets would be made in India as part of the offset clause?
It’s not a question of how many Rafale [jets] will be made in India for the first 36 order that we have got. Certain parts of Rafale and Falcon are going to be manufactured in India to start with. We will take a step-by-step approach and we will start manufacturing parts of Rafale in this facility. If there are new orders, we will look at manufacturing here. We are sure that it’s win-win situation. Manufacturing in India is going to be the next step and it depends upon the new orders. For the new orders for Rafale, the jet would be made totally in India.
How do you intend to fulfil the offset commitment of ₹30,000 crore of the ₹60,000 crore order?
This is something very important because our company has a very old history with India. We have been continuously supplying to India for the past 65 years. This was possible because of our aircraft and we have a very strategic relationship between France and India. Our government has signed an agreement to supply 36 Rafale jets to India with 50% offset obligation. We will fulfil all our contractual obligations.
What gives you the confidence that you will get repeat orders for Rafale?
As of now, we are proposing it to the government but it’s up to the government to go ahead. We have capability to prove that our fighter [jet] is good. It has been bought already. We will deliver the support. We now have the capability to manufacture the aircraft in India. We think we have the right tools to convince the government for repeat orders.
Is the scope of this partnership with Reliance restricted to Rafale?
This is a unique opportunity to start manufacturing in India. With our partner Reliance, we also intend to manufacture our business jet Falcon. The first Falcon will soon take off from Indian soil.
There are concerns in certain quarters that India is overpaying for the current Rafale deal. Your comments?
You have to ask them [the government] this question.
Why have you chosen Reliance Group, which with no prior experience in defence, as your JV Partner?
We are starting with a private company [that wants] to become a global player. I am a private company. It’s an equal partnership. We are investing €100 million for our 49% stake.
What employment opportunities will this JV create?
As chairman of French Aerospace Industries Association, I will lead a big delegation of French SMEs here in the coming months. Our facility here will support over 200 SMEs to secure the component and avionics manufacturing needs of Rafale and Falcon jets. It’s not only about Rafale and Dassault. Our French partners and partners of the Reliance Group will set up their facilities here.