Le Rafale in India, between strengths and uncertainties

The journalist specializing in the Defense industry, Michel Cabirol, published an article in “la Tribune” according to which a new order of Rafale in India was very unlikely this year. Indeed, the Indian opposition, led by the Congress party, has been attacking for several months the terms of the state-to-state contract signed between India and France, for the acquisition of 36 Rafales made in France. The Indian opposition considers the contract too unfavorable for India, and the unit price of the device too high, and exploits this argument as a political argument to put the Moodi government in difficulty, particularly during the next elections in 2019.

If, indeed, there is a clear exploitation by the opposition of the contract between France and India concerning the delivery of 36 Rafales, we must note that this admirably prepares the ground for future orders for the French aircraft, whether directly between States, or during new competitions.

Indeed, beyond the delivery of the aircraft to the Indian Air Force, 3 major aspects of the contract must be taken into account:

  • the creation of a maintenance infrastructure dedicated to Rafale, and capable of supporting up to 150 devices.
  • the adaptation of Rafale to Indian needs, and in particular to the carriage of weapons specific to the IAF, such as the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile.
  • The 50% offset obligation linked to the contract, which French manufacturers have exploited intelligently, by setting up production infrastructures in India, meeting French quality requirements.

These 3 aspects, associated with the fact that the Rafale will enter service in the IAF in 2019, and that it is very favorable to him, provide a certain advantage to the French aircraft in future negotiations, and in particular in the future call for tenders for 110 aircraft, 100 of which will have to be built in India, replacing the "light fighter" call for tenders which saw pitting Lockheed's F16V against Saab's JAS-39 Gripen E/F.

Finally, French manufacturers, and in particular the engine manufacturer Safran which manufactures the M88 engine equipping the Rafale, have a final advantage to assert, by having actively invested in the Indian-designed Tejas fighter, which encountered significant development difficulties and disappointing performance. Like the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly echoed this, Safran, after providing its expertise on the Indian-designed Kivali engine, offered to equip future versions of the Tejas, the Tejas Mk1A and Mk2, with same M88 engine as the Rafale. This engine is both very efficient, fuel efficient, and simplified maintenance, and there is no doubt that the performance of the Tejas would be greatly improved with this reactor.

However, the fact of using the same engine for the Tejas fleet and Rafale would significantly improve the maintenance of both devices, and reduce costs, particularly for the infrastructure responsible for manufacturing the engines.

We see, this first contract Rafale in India will have prepared very well for the future for subsequent orders, which would therefore present a unit price very favorable to the French aircraft, while its competitors, Typhoon, Gripen, Mig35, F16V and F35 will have to integrate additional costs of several billion dollars.

This was the reason why, in September 2016, when this contract was announced, which was then criticized by many in the press and on social networks, I titled my first article “ Rafales Indians: the best contract?« 

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