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HAL Signed MoU to Make Rafale Engines, So Why Did PM Modi Junk It?

HAL had already signed an MoU with Safran to produce Rafale engines, complete with technology transfer. 

Updated
India
3 min read
HAL was all set to produce the Rafale engine in India in 2015. 
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The government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on 14 November 2018 saying that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) “required 2.7 times higher man-hours compared to the French side for the manufacture of Rafale aircraft in India”. It also said that Dassault Aviation and HAL lacked a common understanding, because of which the offset contract could not be concluded between the two companies.

But if all this is true, then why did the manufacturing company of Rafale’s aircraft engine, Snecma (Safran), sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with HAL in January 2015, just four months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced purchase of 36 Rafale jets from Dassault on 10 April 2015.

Safran group is a part of a joint venture named Rafale International, with Dassault Aviation and Thales to promote Rafale fighter aircraft to international customers.

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MoU Was the 1st Step Towards Production of Rafale Aircraft: HAL Officer

The Quint spoke to a retired senior HAL officer who was part of the MoU. He said, “The MoU was signed mainly for technology transfer activity. But the MoU didn’t make any progress because manufacturing of 108 aircraft now will not happen in India. It (MoU) has no relevance anymore.”

“So, the MoU was signed keeping in mind that 108 Rafale aircraft will be manufactured in India and there will be a transfer of technology?”

“Yes, that’s all I can tell you at the moment.”

HAL Signed MoU to Make Rafale Engines, So Why Did PM Modi Junk It?
(Graphics: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)
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What Does the MoU Between Safran and HAL Say?

The MoU was signed on 28 January 2015 in Bangalore with the purpose of converting it into a joint venture, which would “focus on the manufacture of high-tech parts for Dassault Rafale’s Snecma M88 engine”.

After signing the MoU with HAL, the Chairman and CEO of Snecma said, “We are strongly committed to contributing to the ‘Make in India’ policy, based on ambitious partnerships and extensive direct investments. This new venture is further proof that we are actively strengthening our existing ties with HAL.”

It should be noted that the collaboration between the two companies, Snecma (Safran) and HAL, started in 2005 with a joint venture named Snecma HAL Aerospace Pvt Ltd, on manufacturing aircraft engines including the M53 engines powering the Mirage 2000H “Vajra” fighters operated by the Indian Air Force.

HALs annual report of the Financial Year 2017-18 shows that Snecma HAL Aerospace Pvt Ltd continue to have a 50-50 percent shareholding.

“The choice of engine is based on the kind of the aircraft we planned to purchase. Since the discussion was to manufacture 108 Rafale aircraft in India, this MoU was signed. Initially, HAL would have borrowed both technology and labour talent from Snecma (Safran). HAL has enough manpower to manufacture the M88 engine.”
Former HAL Officer
Safran India displayed Rafale M88 engine in Aero India show in 2015.
Safran India displayed Rafale M88 engine in Aero India show in 2015.
Screenshot from @SafranIndia

The question remains – when we had already prepared the ground to manufacture Rafale engines and signed an MoU, why did the government suddenly decide to purchase 36 ready-to-fly Rafale aircraft? Why didn’t the government go ahead with the Transfer of Technology?

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HAL Signed MoU to Make Rafale Engines, So Why Did PM Modi Junk It?
(Graphics: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

HAL Maintains Silence

The Quint has been seeking a response from HAL on the status of the MoU between it and Snecma (Safran), but have not yet received a reply.

We have been told unofficially by a HAL employee that since the matter pertains to the Rafale aircraft, HAL would prefer not to reply at all.

This article will be updated if and when HAL responds.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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