Rafale ready to take off in India!

Following the original request for proposals (RFP) issued in 2007, India announced just a few weeks ago that it intends to purchase 126 Rafale fighters from France. The definitive contract could be signed in 2012. Safran is a major contributor of systems and equipment to this new-generation multirole fighter. We asked Gérard Le Page, head of the Rafale program in India, to give us the contract background.

Which Safran companies are concerned by this contract?
At the head of the list is of course Snecma, which developed and produces the M88-2, Rafale's engine, accounting for 75% of the Group's contribution to the contract by itself. Other Group companies involved are Microturbo for the APU [auxiliary power unit], Messier-Bugatti-Dowty for the landing gear, wheels and brakes, Hispano-Suiza for the power transmissions, Labinal for all wiring harnesses, and Sagem, which contributes the inertial navigation systems, the engine's Fadec electronic control unit, and the AASM modular air-to-ground guided missile, one of the aircraft's major weapons. Other contributions come from Technofan, Aircelle, Herakles and Turbomeca. The contract will represent sales of about 2.5 billion euros for Safran, depending on the weapons chosen, and also entails major production offset arrangements.

Could you describe some of the cutting-edge technologies contributed by these companies?
Well, it's a very long list, because this is a real state-of-the-art fighter, including advanced thermodynamics, materials and electronics for instance. The engine features single-crystal turbine blades, powder metallurgy parts and ceramic matrix composites for the nozzle flaps, along with thin-wall cases for the power transmissions, laser gyros on the inertial navigation systems and of course the very sophisticated guidance system on the AASM "smart" weapon.

Safran has been a preferred partner of India for a number of years. How will their relationship change with this announcement?
The Rafale contract will undoubtedly boost our development in this country, where we have operated since the 1960s. Today, we have more than 2,000 employees in eight subsidiaries and joint ventures, including a design bureau in Bangalore with some 550 engineers. Morpho is participating in the world's largest biometric ID program, that will assign a unique identification number to each citizen and resident of India. CFM International's maintenance teams support a fleet of 350 CFM56 engines deployed by airlines in South Asia. With the Rafale, we expect our business to accelerate considerably. The Indian aviation industry is now under construction. It needs training, technical assistance and technology transfers. So we are going to mobilize to support their rise up the skills chain. In consequence, this contract will result in a hefty business volume for the centers of industrial excellence in France. Furthermore, this impressive contract could have a knock-on effect in other countries who are potential Rafale customers, with proposals already under way.

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