(Bloomberg) -- Dassault Aviation SA confirmed negotiations to sell Rafale fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and said the company is confident an order from India for the hot-selling warplane will come through.
Saudi Arabia is especially interested in the Rafale because, unlike with the Eurofighter Typhoon, there’s no worry about unforeseen export controls, Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier told reporters Tuesday in Paris. The talks with Saudi Arabia, under way for several months, are unaffected by the conflict between Israel and Hamas, he added.
“Rather, they’re tied to local geopolitics and the fact that they traditionally have been purchasing British aircraft, Tornadoes and Eurofighter Typhoons,” Trappier said. “Today there are potential exports issues with Germany.”
The Rafale has seen a string of export wins in recent years, with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and India among its customers. While Dassault has sold business jets in Saudi Arabia, the country has never ordered French military planes, relying on Boeing Co.’s F-15 and the Eurofighter. “It would be a great additional success if we could get a foot in Saudi Arabia,” Trappier said.
La Tribune reported in October that Saudi Arabia was considering the purchase of 54 Rafale fighter jets.
Dassault Aviation is also negotiating to deliver 26 Rafale to the Indian Navy, after Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi pledged to deepen cooperation with France in areas that include defense. Talks are progressing, Trappier said, following a July approval by India’s Defence Acquisition Council.
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The future of the German-French project for a next-generation fighter jet, called Future Combat Air System, will depend on Germany’s export policy, Trappier said. The German government typically has a stricter arms export policy than France. Berlin paused weapons sales to Saudi Arabia following the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
FCAS seeks to bring together Dassault Aviation with the Germany-based defense arm of Airbus SE — currently part of the rival Eurofighter consortium that also includes BAE Systems Plc and Leonardo SpA — to build a prototype. Britain and Italy are meanwhile developing the Tempest model to rival the FCAS, along with Japan.
Trappier said orders books were good for Falcon business jets, with deliveries being a challenge, but warned that orders were likely to slow down given rising interest rates and the overall economic outlook for companies.
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