NEW DELHI: India has selected the French firm Dassault over the Eurofighter consortium as the preferred bidder for 126 fighter jets in a major contract estimated to be worth $12 billion.
Dassault won the right to enter exclusive negotiations with India after lodging a lower bid than its European rival in the world’s biggest single defence deal currently in process, an Indian government source told AFP on Tuesday.
Dassault, whose Rafale fighter had been pitted against the Eurofighter Typhoon, said it was “honoured and grateful” to be selected and stressed its commitment to meeting the “operational requirements” of the Indian Air Force.
The French government welcomed the news, but added that the final contract had yet to be signed.
“At this stage – and I want to be cautious – we are in a phase of exclusive negotiations,” French Minister of State for Foreign Trade Pierre Lellouche told France’s BFM radio.
Lellouche declined to release financial details of Dassault’s bid.
Dassault Aviation shares soared more than 20 per cent on the Paris Stock Exchange after the news broke.
The huge contract to supply war planes to fast-developing India has been fiercely fought over for four years.
India in April pulled a surprise by cutting out US bidders Boeing and Lockheed Martin – much to Washington’s disappointment – as well as dropping Sweden’s Saab AB and the Russian makers of the MiG 35 from the race.
That left Dassault and Eurofighter – a consortium of Britain’s BAE Systems, Italy’s Finmeccanica and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company.
James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, said the decision was “a big win for the Rafale” but warned that the French side faced a period of tough negotiation.
“Rafale has been selected as the preferred bidder but any student of Indian procurement knows that this means nothing until the contract is physically signed,” Hardy said.
He predicted that the recent sharp depreciation of the Indian currency and “standard contractual wrangling” could delay any final deal for years.
The tendered contract was for the outright purchase of 18 combat aircraft by 2012 with another 108 to be built in India with options to acquire more.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.