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FIGHTER JET

France hits jackpot with Qatar fighter jet deal

French group Dassault Aviation is poised to sign a multi-billion-euro deal with Qatar for 36 of its Rafale fighter jets, the presidency and sources said Thursday, the third foreign order this year.

France hits jackpot with Qatar fighter jet deal
France has struck a deal with Qatar for 24 Rafale fighter jets. Photo: AFP

Having struggled for years to sell any of its Rafale jets abroad, Dassault has recently scored several lucrative, high-profile contracts with Egypt, India, and now Qatar.

The agreement, which will be signed on May 4 in Doha in the presence of French President Francois Hollande, includes a firm order for 24 jets with an option on 12 other planes, sources close to the negotiations told AFP earlier.

Earlier this year, Egypt bought 24 Rafales in a €5.2-billion($5.8-billion) deal negotiated in just three months, prompting hopes in Paris that the agreement would act as a catalyst to unblock hoped-for sales to other countries.

India then followed suit this month by announcing the order of 36 Rafale jets during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France.

The two sides had already been engaged in years of tortuous, exclusive negotiations for the sale of 126 Rafales, but these had been bogged down over cost and New Delhi's insistence on assembling a portion of the high-tech planes in India.

So India, whose airforce is in dire need of new jets to update its ageing fleet, made a quick order for 36 planes while negotiations continue on finalising the initial 126-jet agreement.

Dassault is also involved in talks with the United Arab Emirates, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has recently hinted that these are evolving "in the right direction."

The French presidency said Thursday the new deal with Qatar was a "great satisfaction."

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TRADE

France’s €12 billion jet deal with India stalls

India's negotiations with France's Dassault Aviation on a $12-billion deal for Rafale fighter jets have stalled due to disagreements over the production of the planes in India, a report said on Friday.

France's €12 billion jet deal with India stalls
A Dassault Rafale fighter jet, pictured in December 2011. Photo: François Nascimbeni/AFP

The defence deal, one of the biggest ever, was to see the manufacture of the first 18 of the jets in France with the remainder to be produced under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a state-run Indian aerospace behemoth.

The Indian Express newspaper, citing anonymous sources in its report, said that Dassault had refused to take responsibility for the 108 jets to be manufactured by HAL, sparking a row with New Delhi.

The French firm reportedly told Indian officials that New Delhi would have to negotiate two contracts, one with Dassault for 18 fighters and the other with HAL for the remaining 108 aircraft.

The defence ministry "completely rejected this suggestion and made it clear to Dassault that it (the French company) will be solely responsible for the sale and delivery of all 126 aircraft," the newspaper reported, citing sources.

Dassault is thought to have reservations about the ability of HAL, a firm renowned for its inefficiencies, to handle the complex manufacturing and technology transfers which are a crucial part of the deal.

The Rafale beat off stiff competition from six rivals from Russia, the US and Europe last year when India selected the French fighter to replace its ageing fleet.

Its main rival, the Eurofighter made by European group EADS, has remained in India and is still hoping to bag the deal in case Dassault is unable to conclude the negotiations successfully.

A Dassault spokeswoman said she was unable to comment immediately on the report when contacted by AFP.

The Rafale has carried out bombing missions in Afghanistan, Libya and most recently in Mali, where it is currently flying sorties targeting Islamist militants.

India's air force chief said in February that the country hopes to sign the deal with Dassault Aviation by the middle of the year.

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