New Delhi, Feb. 10: A joint venture between France’s Dassault Aviation and Reliance Industries Ltd will build components and eventually assemble Falcon business jets in India.
Aviation industry sources said the joint venture, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed recently, was originally meant to build components for Rafale fighter jets to be used by the Indian Air Force.
However, after considering the market for business jets in India and Asia, Dassault and Reliance have decided to work in tandem to bring in Falcon jets.
The Indian sub-continent is expected to purchase about 350-400 business jets over the next 10 years. Dassault already sells the Falcon to Indian business tycoons and expects to push sales among the growing number of dollar billionaires.
There are around 20 Falcon jets in India, prompting Dassault to open a liaison and sales office in New Delhi last year. It operates two service centres through Indian partners for the Falcon 2000 and 900 series of jets. Falcon’s 2000S, which is being pushed here, is priced at $25 million. The Falcon 7X, which is unlikely to be assembled here, costs over $50 million.
The Falcon 2000S carries about 8-12 passenger with a crew of two and has a speed of 850 kmph and a range of 6,200 km. The 2000S has a large cabin with plush office space and facilities such as large HD screens and Internet connectivity at 41,000ft.
Aviation sources say Falcons can be manoeuvred in short airfields, elevated runways and high temperatures, which is why Dassault is pitching for them in Asia.
Sources said Dassault had been in talks with Vivek Lall, head of Reliance Aerospace Technologies, on the scope of the joint venture. Lall has been vice-president at Boeing Defense Space & Security and has also worked with Raytheon and the NASA.
The joint venture of Dassault and Reliance will determine the shape of the joint venture of the French firm with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to make the Rafale fighter jets. It will decide which components of the Rafale Dassault will manufacture after concluding talks with the defence officials. Sources said Dassault was once keen to make most of the parts and have control over the joint venture while limiting the role of HAL to just assembling the jets.
However, the government wants HAL to have a greater role so that the Indian engineers are able to absorb the technology better. The $10-billion deal for 126 fighter jets was one of the most keenly contested defence contracts in the past few years. The sheer size of the deal has allowed the government to dictate the terms for greater localisation.
India has long been looking at ways to leverage its defence purchases to build a sophisticated arms industry. The defence forces are expected to spend around $100 billion in arms imports over the next five years. This year, around 89 per cent, or Rs 66,459.43 crore, of the total spending of the defence forces have been earmarked for acquisition and modernisation of equipment.
The government last year changed its defence offset policy to allow technology transfers and research collaboration to offset the splurge on jet fighters, artillery guns and submarines.