India to buy French fighter jets worth $12b


France’s Dassault Aviation hopes to conclude its $12-billion deal to sell Rafale jets to India this year, with negotiations set to be taken up by President Francois Hollande next week, Indian media reported on Thursday. “The ideal would be to sign it in 2013,” Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier told reporters in an interview about the world’s biggest defence deal at India’s air show in Bangalore. “It’s not that surprising that it takes a bit of time,” he said, pointing out that the contract involved production of 126 state-of-the-art fighters in France and India over a 15-20 year period. He also confirmed Indian negotiators had detailed their needs for an additional 63 planes beyond the initial order of 126, as reported after a visit by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to Paris in January. “It’s to let us know that they’ll need the assembly lines for a long time,” he said. Hollande is to visit New Delhi on February 14-15 on his first trip to India since being elected in May. Trappier will be in the delegation. “I don’t think there are military aircraft sales without good political relations,” said Trappier. Dassault is one of the big names at this week’s Aero India as it shows off the Rafale which beat competition from six rivals from Russia, the US and Europe last year. Exclusive negotiations are under way to determine the final price and amount of technology transfers, with Defence Minister AK Antony giving an indication of the complexities involved in Wednesday’s news conference.