Despite French Pressure, HAL Remains India’s Lead Integrator for the Rafale

A French Air Force Rafale carries six AASM guided weapons on a mission over Libya. Photo: French Air Force

The Indian defense ministry has decided to remain firm on having Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) as the lead integrator for producing 108 medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) in India. In its decision, the Indian ministry waived concerns raised by program’s prime contractor, the French Dassault Aviation company, about the feasibility of HAL ramping up production in India, to assemble 108 of the 126 aircraft to be ordered under the MMRCA program. To be able to meet the IAF requirement for fighter planes, Dassault suggested to have more substantial part of the program.

The French company had told the ministry that if it is given the overall responsibility for the project, it should be given the freedom to decide on the proportion of work to be done by HAL and private companies in the program. If the government had given a major role to the French firm in producing the aircraft in the country, it would have assigned a major share of work to an Indian defence company. Soon after Dassault was declared as the lowest bidder for the MMRCA deal it signed a MoU with a Reliance Industries Ltd. company for working together in the security sector. It is currently negotiating the deal with the defence ministry and the IAF.

According to The Times of India, the ministry’s stand in this regard has come after French firm Dassault asked it to define the role of HAL in the project. ‘If any company other than HAL is designated as the integrator, it would be deviation from the tender issued for the project and as per the defence procurement procedure, it will have to be approved by the defence acquisition council,’ defence ministry sources told the Times. In view of this, the ministry has decided that it will stick to the clauses of the tender issued in 2007, they said. The ministry is expected to convey its decision on the issue to the company during the negotiations on the deal beginning next week.