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Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter jet faces a surge in demand, with its production backlog reaching an impressive 228 aircraft. This presents both exciting opportunities and significant challenges for the French manufacturer.

Despite aiming for 15 Rafales in 2023, Dassault only delivered 13. This gap widens with recent orders from Indonesia (18 aircraft), France (42 aircraft), and potential future orders from India (27 aircraft). Deliveries between 2026 and 2033 need to fulfil commitments to France, Indonesia, UAE, and Egypt, totalling 174 aircraft.

Dassault plans to increase production to 20 and then 26 units annually, but the order influx may necessitate further expansion. Opening a second production line in France is a possibility, but this could hinder the activation and potential upgrade of the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) facility in Nagpur, India.

DRAL’s intended role was to manufacture Rafales for India, but delays in the Indian Air Force’s decision on a 114-jet purchase left it underutilized. However, recent statements suggest activating DRAL for export orders first, potentially due to the longer wait for Indian confirmation.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s announcement of Rafale production in Nagpur suggests DRAL activation may happen sooner rather than later, regardless of the Indian order’s timeline.

Balancing production between France and India while meeting export demands requires careful planning. The decision to prioritize DRAL for exports presents an opportunity to showcase its capabilities and attract future orders, but it also risks further delaying Indian deliveries.

Dassault faces a critical decision. Expanding production in France could hinder DRAL’s development and future partnerships with India. Conversely, prioritizing DRAL for exports might strain relations with India and delay its own Rafale acquisition. Navigating this complex landscape will be crucial for Dassault to capitalize on Rafale’s success while maintaining strong partnerships.

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