French defence major Dassault Aviation is likely to start manufacturing parts of the Rafale fighter jets at its India facility this year, with the wares destined for global customers, ThePrint has learnt.
The Indian facility, a joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, is located in Nagpur.
According to industry sources, the French firm has already carried out a test production of certain parts that could be manufactured here. A formal announcement to this effect, they said, could come in September, when the first of the 36 Rafale ordered by the Indian Air Force are handed over in France.
The Nagpur facility of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) is currently making cockpits for the French manufacturer’s Falcon business jets, besides other parts. It is being used as a “test bed” for the possible manufacturing of fighter jet parts.
The industry sources told ThePrint that the plan was to start with smaller parts like the undercarriage door, before going on to bigger ones.
A ‘u-turn’ ::
Reports of the Nagpur facility churning out fighter jet parts come months after Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said the company had no plans to manufacture Rafale parts in the country if India capped its order at 36 jets.
When the first Falcon 2000 cockpit front section manufactured at Nagpur was ready to be handed over to Dassault this February, the company said the “achievement illustrates Dassault Aviation’s determination to build up an Indian aerospace manufacturing eco-system, matching the highest standards in this field and positioning India as an international reference in the global aerospace market”.
Dassault and Reliance announced their joint venture and the creation of DRAL on 3 October 2016, barely two weeks after India signed a 7.878 billion-euro deal for 36 Rafale jets in a flyaway condition. The joint venture plans to recruit and train 650 employees by 2022, with the eventual aim being the rollout of a complete Falcon from Nagpur.
The DRAL facility was inaugurated in October 2017, in the presence of both Trappier and Ambani.
The joint venture has been in the eye of a storm over the opposition’s allegations that the Narendra Modi government had shown undue favour to get Dassault Aviation to pick Reliance Defence as an offsets partner. The government was given a clean chit on the deal by the Supreme Court in December last year, but the top court is currently hearing a review petition against the order.