Rafale: Dassault CEO chose Reliance at the last minute, despite team opposition; report

A media report quoting experts at Dassault Aviation said technical staff were unhappy with the move to drop HAL and that CEO Eric Trappier chose Reliance Defence for Rafale deal at the last minute

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More skeletons are tumbling out from the technical rooms of Rafale jet-mkaer Dassault Aviation, creating more headaches for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Completely contradicting the official statement from Dassault Aviation, two top technical heads have stated in an interview to India Scoops, that the entire technical staff team at Dassault Aviation were unhappy with the move to drop the Indian public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) from the deal and instead partner with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd.

According to the report, the experts, who did not want to be identified, said there were heated discussions between Dassault officials and several mails were sent over a week. The entire technical team wanted to work with HAL, but the decision was overruled by the top Dassault management headed by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute. The experts said that Trappier and two others were adamant that they could only go with Reliance Defence and refused to listen to the advice of the departmental HODs.

“We were sure we would be working with HAL and not any other Indian company... At the last minute, we were informed that HAL was dropped and a new Indian company with whom we had never worked before and which had no expertise in manufacturing fighter aircraft was selected for the job,” the article quoted the officials as saying.

“The entire technical team and our team heads and HODs were shocked. It was a bolt from the blue. But we had to follow instructions. At the end of the day... if the top management decided to work with Reliance Defence, we had to toe the line... But it was CEO Eric Trappier and a couple of other officials’ at DA who took the decision to go with Reliance Defence,” the officials were further quoted as saying.

The article quoted Dassault officials as saying that CEO Eric Trappier and two others were adamant that they could only go with Reliance Defence and refused to listen to the advice of the departmental HODs, adding that they were told the Indian government would have scrapped the deal if Reliance was not taken on board

“The Indian government would have scrapped the deal if Reliance was not taken on board”

  • The Dassault Aviation officials made the following points to India Scoops:
  • The Indian government would have scrapped the deal if Reliance was not taken on board
  • Scrapping the deal would mean losses for the company and hence the top management headed by CEO Eric Trappier took the decision to work with Reliance
  • This was despite the fact that the in-house technical HODs had vetoed working with a new company having no experience and expertise
  • The technical HODs told the Dassault Aviation top management that handing over the contract to a new company would compromise and jeopardise the technology and equipment
  • The HODs also said taking on an inexperienced offset partner would be hazardous for the over-all image of Dassault as a world-class manufacturer of fighter aircraft.

According to a report on NDTV, top sources at the French firm said Dassault chose Anil Ambani's debt-ridden firm as a partner in India, "because it was registered with the MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) and had land in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd was selected over the experienced, state-run HAL as the offset partner for India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the purchase of the jets in April, 2015 during a visit to Paris.

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