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Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jet, is making a strategic move to secure a larger role in India’s aerospace industry. The company has reportedly conveyed to Indian Air Force (IAF) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials that it can begin Rafale production in India, but with one key condition: acquiring a 100% stake in Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL).

Dassault’s proposal is enticing. The company claims its Indian facility, upon receiving full ownership, could achieve a production rate of two Rafale jets per month. This translates to potentially delivering the entire 114 jets envisioned under the IAF’s upcoming Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender within five years.

Defense Analyst Ranesh Rajan tempers the optimism with a note of caution. He highlights Dassault’s current production limitations, with only 13 Rafales produced in 2023 despite a target of 15 at its French facility. Rajan suggests Dassault might be overpromising on India’s production capacity, especially considering the potential for scaling up production to 25 jets annually elsewhere.

The issuance of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the MRFA tender is likely to occur only after India’s upcoming general elections. This adds another layer of uncertainty to the timeline for potential Rafale production in India.

Dassault’s proposal represents a significant step towards increased foreign investment in India’s defence sector. However, questions about production feasibility and the timing of the MRFA tender remain unanswered. The Indian government and IAF will need to carefully evaluate Dassault’s claims and weigh them against other contenders before making a decision.

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