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April 19, 2024
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After a long haul, the Indians appear to have selected the Dassault Rafale for their new fighter. Discussing the selection and implications with us are FlightGlobal’s Steve Trimble and G2Solution’s Michel Merluzeau.

The selection process took years. Virtually every fighter that could compete did. In the end it was a fight between Typhoon and Rafale. The lowest cost winner seems to be Rafale. As our guests explain, this selection could have implications for the outstanding deals in Brazil and UAE.


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10 thoughts on “Podcast – India Selects Rafale

  1. This is an extremely important victory for Dassault. They have long enjoyed success on the export market with the Mirage aircraft. Thanks to the Israelis demonstration of its capabilities in the Six Day war. But until now the Rafale programme had not sold a single aircraft outside of France. What a shame! Because this is simply one of the best fighters ever designed.

    It reminds me of the Spitfire as a true fighter pilot aircraft. And probably the last one as well. Because the trend today is to develop electronic platforms that operate at a distance, like the F-22 for example. In close combat it would be a different story. But close combat is passé. It’s also the last fighter pilot aircraft because a pilot is no longer required. At least in the air, onboard the aircraft. In the future the engagements will take place at a remote distance and/or the aircraft will be remotely controlled.

    The Rafale is a fantastic aircraft, but it had not been given a fair chance until now. Thanks to the amateurish approach of the French government. The wake-up call came when they lost the Moroccan order. It was a done deal for Dassault. Put they forgot the Americans and their F-16. Although the Rafale is a far superior aircraft, the deal went to Lockheed because the Americans are much better business people. And armament is nothing if not a business. But the French have since learned from their mistakes and they approached the Indian government ready to make the necessary concessions.

    On purely technical grounds there was no problems. The Rafale is a highly versatile aircraft. Dassault is second to none when time comes to conceive multi-role combat aircraft. That is why the Boeing JSF proposal was coming directly from the Dassault drawing office. They knew in Seattle at the time where the expertise was. In the end Lockheed prevailed because of the SVTOL capabilities of its proposal. But the Boeing/Dassault concept was to do everything with a single platform. That’s what we call polyvalence. And this characteristic is largely responsible for the Indian selection of the Rafale.

  2. Readers may be interested in this background, courtesy of Der Spiegel.

    “Dassault had only remained in the running because government officials in Paris had intervened politically in New Delhi. Initially, the French had fallen out of the running — reports in India indicated they had made a poor offer. But in December 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to New Delhi, where he promoted the jet and pushed for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council as well as for India’s unrestricted access to nuclear technologies.

    For the Rafale, the Indian contract was a matter of survival. In December, France’s defense minister threatened to stop its funding for the Rafale program if Dassault was unable to find any buyers for its fighter jets abroad.

    Still, Eurofighter manufacturer EADS hasn’t given up all hope. With its low-price offer, Dassault has merely been given the right to “exclusive contract negotiations” with the Indian government. The first meeting between government representatives and Dassault executives is expected to take place within the next two weeks. The most important topic of discussion will be the exact price that will have to be agreed.

    So far, all the negotiations Dassault has conducted with foreign governments interested in the Rafale have failed because the fighter jet has a tendency to require a lot of repairs and is thus more expensive to maintain and operate. Dassault’s competitors are now hoping the company will prove unable to reach an agreement. The Indian Defense Ministry has confirmed that if that were to happen, a new bidding process would be opened. However, a high-ranking official said it is hoped that negotiations with Dassault will be successful and that the Indian air force will soon get the first of its new jets. “

  3. Aurora, the first sentence, second paragraph of your article reads like this: “Besides, who’s ever even heard of the Rafale fighter jet?” That says it all. This article is obviously very biased. It has a tone often found in the voice of those who don’t easily accept defeat.

    That there was some political mingling there is no doubt about it. That is precisely the point I was trying to make in my initial post. Until the Moroccan debacle there had never been a well coordinated involvement of the French government with Dassault. That is the reason why “so far all the negotiations Dassault has conducted with foreign government interested in the Rafale have failed”, not “because the fighter jet has a tendency to require a lot of repairs and is thus more expensive to maintain and operate.” Ask the Indian Air Force about this. They already operate Dassault fighter aircraft along with Russian ones. Ask them which one provides the best support. The Rafale was the Indian Air Force first choice because it had the overall best performance along with an excellent track record of the company in terms of maintainability of the Mirage aircraft.

    Just watch the performance of the Rafale in the international training exercises and competition it has so far taken part of. The Rafale always comes out on top. Even the Americans recognize its formidable capabilities. The Concorde never had a great success on the export market, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad aircraft. If the Rafale can clinch a few more orders it will be able to build the same momentum the Mirage have enjoyed over a period of several decades. The more orders you get the more airplanes you build. And the more airplanes you build the cheaper they become. And the cheaper they become the more you sell. It’s a virtuous circle.

  4. NH, the Der Spiegel piece is only the beginning of what is probably going to be a very vitriolic campaign between the eurofighter nations and the French. The stakes for both are huge. EADS needed this win to keep the Typhoon line going considering that all the participants are balking on Tranche 3 and I believe the Saudi’s haven’t firmed up the remainder of the 72 plane order (24 delivered?). EADS hasn’t had the best couple of months recently with Germany wanting to cut its A400M buy again and losing out on the Galileo contract. There are fears of BAE layoffs in the UK. We’ve yet to hear from Italy and Spain. Don’t expect them to give up on this. David Cameron has stated he’s going to bring it up with the Indian government.

    As for Rafale “winning”, the commercial terms have to be negotiated before that can be declared. I expect the Indians will perceive, rightly so IMO, that they are in the driver’s seat, and will dictate terms, offsets, prices, etc. How bad do the French want this? We’ll see.

    This is truly a “get popcorn” event. Its going to be fun to sit back and watch how it plays out.

  5. Dassault second to none when it comes to multi-role aircraft? Gimme a break, SAAB pioneered the whole concept with the 37 Viggen (Thunderbolt)… then mastered in with the 39 Gripen (Gryphon)… Do some reading before stating…

  6. The Gripen is indeed a remarkable aircraft. I have been following the evolution of the concept since the time of the Draken and I always had a profound admiration for SAAB, either as an aircraft manufacturer or as a car maker. The SAAB fighters have always been easy to maintain and considerably less costly in that regard than other western jets. Especially the Gripen.

    That a relatively small country like Sweden can produce such a distinguish line of aircraft is hard to believe. It is quite a feat and a tribute to the ingenuity of the Swedish people. Can you imagine what they could accomplish if they had the means of a country like United States?

    In the meantime SAAB is able to offer a highly competitive product on the international market. And so far they have succeeded in a few countries, even outside Europe. Something Dassault had not been able to do until very recently. For a certain category of customers the Gripen is unbeatable. Especially the countries seeking to have a sophisticated aircraft in their arsenal, but without the hassles and exponential costs that normally come with that level of technology. How SAAB was able to achieve that is a mystery to me.

    The acquisition of a fighter aircraft is an extremely expensive proposition for any country. And the strategic requirements will differ profoundly from one nation to the other. For example, it made perfect sense to me that Switzerland selected the Gripen instead of the Rafale. Even though, like India, they were already flying the Mirage. Each country has to evaluate for themselves the various political, financial and technical aspects of such an important purchase. And the various models they can choose from all have their respective set of advantages and weaknesses, and they compete on that basis.

    The fact that the Gripen is always invited to participate in those competition says it all.

  7. DefenseAerospace.com is a European (French?) publication. Here is their editor’s take on why Rafale was selected for negotiations.

    [quote]PARIS — While many observers cite technology transfer, prices and performance as being major factors in India’s selection of the Rafale as its next-generation fighter, reality is very different even if these factors obviously did play a significant role.

    In the same way that it is true that Rafale lost several competitions through no fault of its own, it must be recognized that its victory in India was also won, to a great extent, through no fault of its own. The real reason for its victory is political, and the long memory of Indian politicians was a major contributing factor.[/quote]

    Very smug overview, but I largely agree with his basic premise.

  8. Interesting analysis because they look at it from various angles: technical, historical, political, etc. What we often find in military aircraft procurement is that no matter what product you have to offer, no matter how good it is, in the end the decision will remain a political one. It’s the nature of the business. And sometimes the best product for the job will be eliminated because of other “more important” considerations.

  9. From a european perspective, I think we should call it a day with the Typhoon. We got the interceptors we needed. The world / requirements have changed since 1990. Rebuilding the Typhoon into an all round aircraft (tranche 3) seems a waste of money. It still won’t have range, stealth etc. The Tornado fleets do have range, payload a second man for long complicated missions but can only be upgraded sofar. They lack stealth. Typhoon isn’t a worthy replacement for international crises. Issue is, that ending the Typhoon is politically & industrial unacceptable..

    The Rafale that started life in the same period as the Typhoon grew with its time better then Typhoon (there was only 1 government..) It’s got range (conf. tanks) they’re further along with Aesa, a 2 two man cockpit option and navy variant/ weaponry. For me the India selection is no surprise.

  10. Hello Normand.

    Did not see your answer til now…

    I think that one of the secrets to SAAB’s (and Sweden’s) sucess in the military aircraft business lies in not having as much money as the US. They had to be smarter and always on the look-out for synergys.

    The US could much longer afford to have separate types for each mission, whereas Sweden had to go multi-role very early, being relatively short of funds. When eventually the US had to as well (JSF), they did not have the know-how and did not want to prioritize and make ends meet so they ended up with multiple types of the multi-role a/c. HUGE irony…

    Furthermore, the whole Swedish setup around a conscript army made the requirements for maintenance etc very stringent, and mnt became a lot cheaper in the process.

    Also, the cost was decided as program input, not as a result.

    I have seen in a display a three man crew (conscripts with 5 months training) refuel and rearm a Gripen in less than ten minutes at an airstrip with only a small truck (read large US pickup) for arms and a large one with fuel. This can also be done at roadside (yep, the Gripen can use select public roads as emergency or wartime airstrips). The trucks come in 5 mins before the a/c shows up; the plane lands, gets treated and takes off; trucks drive off.

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