Dassault, India and European Aerospace

Author: Andrew Black, Head of Research & Analysis, Hawk Associates

Rafale French Jet Fighter 


The contours of European Military Aerospace are shifting, and the repercussions can still be felt around Europe. The recent decision by India to award a contract for 126 new fighter aircraft to the Rafale made by Dassault is continuing to send out shock waves amongst airframe producers.

There are three European fighter jet planes currently in production. The first being the Eurojet/Typhoon built by a 4 nation consortium, the Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, involving EADS (46%), BAES (33%), Alenia (21%). The EADS activities are split over Germany and Spain, with the other two countries being the UK and Italy. The next is the Rafale, a fighter aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation, possibly better known as a producer of business executive jets, and finally, the Gripen, produced by Saab.

The numbers of active platforms in this segment of the defence industry has been steadily declining, as the costs of buying and operating manned supersonic aircraft has continued to rise. With static or declining defence budgets, manufacturers are keen to sell their equipment to other third parties, and in particular to the so-called BRIC countries and other emerging markets. All of which helps to defray costs and increase profits.

The Indian defence market has attracted great attention recently. India’s own efforts to produce a cutting edge new fighter aircraft have been bedevilled by a series of difficulties, so in order to maintain some kind of defence against China and Pakistan, the Indian Air Force decided to let international suppliers bid for their business. Contenders included not only the European suppliers but also Boeing, with the Hornet F-18 and Lockheed Martin with its F-16 Viper aircraft.

Although the American aircraft are equipped with arguably superior radar, both US candidates were eliminated in the earlier selection rounds, as was the Gripen. It was suggested that India might be positioning itself to “help” in the development of new generation radars used for the plane ultimately selected.

After further competition, including a staged aerial dog fight between the competing aircraft, the Indian Defence ministry announced that the preferred bidder and therefore winner of the competition was Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the Rafale.

Not a moment too soon

The envisaged order is for 126 aircraft. The order size, which may include spares and training, is in the region of US$ 20 billion or €14.8 billion. This is equivalent to €117 million per aircraft, rather higher than the €55 million estimated as the list price of Rafale’s by Forecast International. The news of this order has been well received by the stock markets, and the shares in Dassault Aviation have improved recently, handsomely out-performing the broader French CAC 40 index. For all that the company remains cautious. The Indian decision may well be challenged by rivals, and the Indian government is not the fastest when it comes to converting statements of intent into actual orders for actual equipment.

The Indian order will approximately double the estimated future of the Rafale, which so far has only been ordered by the French government. Dassault Aviation’s main activity is in selling executive jet aircraft, where demand has been badly hit by the economic recession/depression. The company remains cautious suggesting that the good news on the military front may largely cancel out further grief on the commercial side.

And the consequences for Europe ?

Some experts thought that the Eurofighter/Typhoon was the most likely candidate to win. Eurofighter deliveries are currently expected to continue until 2017, at volumes higher than those for the Rafale. Combining the new Indian orders with domestic orders suggests that the overall production of Rafales could now exceed that of the Eurofighter, which would represent a considerable change in fortune. Prior to this decision it was not entirely clear for how much longer Rafale production could be maintained without finding additional customers.

And this is basically good news for European airframe manufacturers, assuming that deliveries for India start sooner rather than later. It is also good news for the main sub contractors involved in the Rafale aircraft, and some of these are listed below.

The decision by India came as a blow to both the Eurofighter consortium and for Saab. Some have suggested that the security of supply issues may have coloured the decision by India, since buying the Eurofighter involves having to deal with 4 company/government combinations, compared to just one with the Rafale. It is also possible that the Indian government feels that it might have more leverage over Dassault. It has previously purchased the Dassault Mirage aircraft. Eurofighter has secured one additional third party order from Saudi Arabia, and is still looking for others.

The loss of the order for Saab was also unwelcome news. However, the Gripen has been sold to a number of smaller European countries, as well as to Thailand and South Africa. The aircraft has a better track record in international sales than both the Eurofighter and the Rafale.

The Indian contract represents good news for European aircraft manufacturers, and shows European products remain competitive with those of the US as well as from other sources such as Russia and China.

Generation 5 Development

Experts point out that India is essentially locking itself into a generation 4 rather than a newer, stealthier and more advanced generation 5 fighter. The main representatives of this breed being the F22 Raptor, the most expensive fighter ever built, the F35 Lightning, the standard bearer for many manufacturers and sub contractors in Europe as well as in the US, and the Sukhoi PAK FA. The Sukhoi plane is also being developed with Indian assistance. It is possible that the further orders for the Rafale might push Dassault further down the road towards developing its own future Generation 5 fighter in the future.

Main Subcontractors involved in the RAFALE programme

  • Ei Du Pont De Nemours & Co http://www2.dupont.com/DuPont_Home/en_US/, 1007 Market St, Wilmington, DE 19898-0001 United States, Tel: + 1 (302) 774-1000 (Fin Root Fairing)
  • Honeywell Secan http://www.honeywell.com/sites/fr/, 23, rue du 19 mars 1962, BP 92, Gennevilliers, 92230 France, Tel: + 33 1 40 80 58 00, Fax: + 33 1 40 80 59 71 (Heat Exchanger)
  • Intertechnique http://www.intertechnique.fr, 61 rue Pierre-Curie, BP 1, Plaisir Cedex, 78373 France, Tel: + 33 1 30 54 82 00, Fax: + 33 1 30 55 71 61 (Fuel Gauge System)
  • Labinal http://www.labinal.com, 36, rue Raymond Grimaud, Blagnac, 31700 France, Tel: + 33 5 34 60 00 00, Fax: + 33 5 34 60 01 99 (Wiring & Cable Assembly)
  • MBDA France http://www.mbda-systems.com, 1 avenue Reaumur, Le Plessis-Robinson, 92358 France, Tel: + 33 1 71 54 10 00, Email: css.MBDA-Group@mbda.net (DDM Infrared Missile Detector)
  • Martin-Baker Aircraft Co Ltd http://www.martin-baker.com, Higher Denham, UB9 5AJ Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1895 832214, Fax: + 44 1895 832587, Email: information@martin-baker.co.uk (Mk 10 Pilot Ejection Seat)
  • Messier-Dowty International http://www.messier-dowty.com, Zone Aeronautique Louis Breguet, BP 10, Velizy-Villacoublay, 78140 France, Tel: + 33 1 46 29 18 00, Fax: + 33 1 46 29 18 03 (Landing Gear Door Control System)
  • Microturbo SA http://www.microturbo/fr, 8, Chemin du Pont de Rupe, B.P. 2089, Toulouse, 31019 France, Tel: + 33 5 61 37 55 00, Fax: + 33 5 61 70 74 45 (TGA 15 Auxiliary Power Unit)
  • Sagem http://www.sagem-ds.com, Le Ponant de Paris, 27, Rue Leblanc, Paris, 75015 France, Tel: + 33 1 58 11 78 00, Fax: + 33 1 58 11 78 50 (Sigma RL 90 Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) System)
  • Snecma http://www.snecma.com, 10, allee du Brevent, CE1420 Courcouronnes, Evry, 91019 France, Tel: + 33 1 69 87 09 00, Fax: + 33 1 69 87 09 02 (M88 Augmented Turbofan)
  • Tat 88 Rue Brillat Savarin, Paris Cedex, 75640 France, Tel: + 33 145 81 1112, Fax: + 33 145 80 7170 (Communication System)
  • Thales Aerospace http://www.thalesgroup.com/aerospace/, 45, Rue de Villiers, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 92526 France, Tel: + 33 1 57 77 80 00, Fax: + 33 1 57 77 87 70 (RBE2 Radar; UHF/VHF Communication System; NS100 Global Positioning System (GPS); Active Matrix LCD Flat Panel Display (FPD))
  • Whittaker Corp 1955 N Surveyor Ave, Simi Valley, CA 93063-3386 United States, Tel: + 1 (805) 526-5700, Fax: + 1 (805) 526-4369 (Fire Detection System)


If readers would like to know more about this topic, then please contact Hawk at m.moller@hawkinformation.com


Related Forecasts and Analyses:

International Military Markets - Asia, Australia & Pacific Rim,

International Military Markets - Europe,

Military Aircraft Forecast,

The Market for Fighter Aircraft

Defence & Aerospace Companies Volume II