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Dassault Aviation, the French company behind the Rafale fighter jet, maybe throwing a wrench into India’s ambitious plans for its upcoming Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) procurement. This comes even as Dassault enjoys a surge in export orders, with the Rafale backlog exceeding 200 units.

The Indian government has unveiled a new policy for the MRFA program, demanding not just the purchase of aircraft but also the complete production of the chosen jet within India. This signifies a significant shift from past “Make in India” initiatives. Technology transfer and a joint venture with a domestic partner for full-fledged production are now central requirements for any vendor vying for the contract.

While Dassault’s Rafale has been a frontrunner for the previous MRFA bids, the company seems hesitant about the technology transfer clause in the new policy. This comes despite India’s existing success with the Rafale, having already purchased 36 jets and potentially looking to acquire 26 more naval variants for its aircraft carriers.

Dassault’s reluctance to share technology could pose a challenge to India’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) ambitions in the defence sector. The new MRFA policy aims to not only fulfil India’s immediate fighter jet needs but also foster a robust domestic aerospace industry.

With major players like Dassault potentially hesitant about the new requirements, the MRFA acquisition timeline might face delays. Other contenders in the race include Boeing’s Super Hornet F/A-18, SAAB’s Gripen, Lockheed Martin’s F-21, Russia’s MiG-35, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

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