Dassault CEO fends off criticisms on Rafale deal

Dassault Aviation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Trappier fended off criticisms on India’s Rafale defence deal with France in an exhaustive interview with ANI in France.

Trappier said he was not lying, as alleged by Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, when he stated that his company chose Anil Ambani’s Reliance for Rafale defence offset deal along with 30 other partners.

He also rejected Gandhi’s charge that kickbacks were given to Ambani’s firm.

Dassault Aviation is not working for any political party. It is focused on supplying strategic products like fighters to the Indian Air Force and the Indian Government, he said.

Despite its lack of experience in manufacturing fighter jets, Reliance was chosen as an offset partner because the money being invested was not going to that company directly but into a joint venture that included Dassault.

Dassault’s engineers and workers will head the industrial part of the offset deal. Reliance, along with other companies, is investing in the joint venture to create more jobs and wealth for India and Dassault’s experts will train them in producing aircraft, Trappier said.

Turning to offset obligations, he said Dassault has seven years to perform offset. During the first three years, it is not obliged to say with whom it is working. It has already settled work and agreement with 30 companies, which represent 40% of total offset obligation laid out in the contract. Reliance is 10% of the 40%, while rest 30% is a direct deal between these companies and Dassault.

On the pricing issue, he said the price of Rafale in flyaway condition is 9% cheaper for the present deal involving 36 aircraft than the initial deal involving 126 fighter jets.

On the initial move to involve Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in the production of Rafale jets and its failure, Trappier said his company would have teamed with HAL and Reliance had the initial deal of 126 jets been approved.

That deal did not run smooth and the government decided to urgently acquire 36 fighter jets. HAL, at a later stage, said they were not interested to be part of the offset deal while Reliance kept its interest in the deal alive.

Dassault decided to involve Reliance as they had experience in big engineering facilities, he said.