Strategic Push: Dassault Aviation to Acquire Land for MRO Facility, Strengthen Rafale’s India Operations

Defence Industry

New Delhi: Giving a strategic push to its India operations, Dassault Aviation SA is in the process of acquiring land near Jewar international airport for a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility for India’s Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters, according to a media report.

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The move sets the stage for the local manufacturing of latest versions of Rafale fighters in the country to fulfill the Indian Air Force’s long-pending requirement of around 100 twin-engine multi-role fighters that will be needed over the next two decades, the media report said citing sources familiar with the matter.

The Emmanuel Macron government and Dassault have offered in writing to manufacture Rafale fighters in India under the “Make in India” initiative. Additionally, engine maker Safran SA is planning an MRO facility for Rafale engines in Hyderabad, expected to be operational by 2025. Safran has also indicated readiness to manufacture M-88 engines in India if there is a substantial order from the IAF.

Before the middle of the next decade, HAL’s LCA Mark II with GE-414 engines, will not be ready to replace the Mirage 2000. During this period, the Rafale fighter will not only meet India’s requirement but also allow India to export the same fighters to third countries. Dassault has already started sourcing titanium parts from companies in India for manufacture Rafale fighters and plans to add more local vendors to the supply chain list.

According to the sources, the manufacture of Rafale fighters in India is a win-win for both close allies as Dassault already has some 300 fighter orders in hand from Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Egypt, Qatar, UAE and Indonesia and has no capacity to manufacture extra planes for India. The company is also in talks with Saudi Arabia for supply of fighters and the French Air Force has asked it for 42 more Rafales.

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IAF is already operating 36 Rafale fighters with Hammer and SCALP missiles with the Indian Navy currently involved in price negotiations for 26 Maritime Strike Rafales for the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier. India already has base maintenance depots, repairs, training and simulators for Rafales in its Ambala air base.

Shifting its defence procurement policy to acquire 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) only from vendors willing to establish manufacturing units locally, including technology transfer and full production in collaboration with local partners, the Indian government aims to strengthen India’s defence manufacturing capabilities.

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Moreover, the Modi government has also taken reassurance from France’s stable licensing policy which will ensure there is no hiccup. France has been supplying aircraft to India since the Toofani fighter in 1953.

Safran is also ready for a joint venture with an Indian company for manufacture of engines for Indian Multi-Role Helicopters (IMRH) so that India does not have to look for a third country for urgent supplies, the sources added.