April 16, 2009 / 1:27 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-India says France's Dassault out of fighter deal

(Adds Dassault comment)

By Bappa Majumdar

NEW DELHI, April 16 (Reuters) - France’s Dassault Aviation is out of the running for a $10 billion contract to supply India with 126 fighter jets, an Indian defence ministry spokesman said on Thursday, but Dassault said it was unaware of the decision.

“(Dassault’s) Rafale did not meet the usual requirements,” the Indian defence ministry spokesman told Reuters. “The other five companies are still in the race.”

The other bids submitted last year for the contract, one of the biggest in the world, are from Boeing (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Russia’s MiG-35, Saab’s (SAABb.ST) KAS-39 Gripen, and the Eurofighter Typhoon, backed by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies.

In Paris, Dassault said it had not been informed of any decision to eliminate its Rafale aircraft from the tender for multi-role combat jets and that France was seeking clarification.

“So far, Rafale International has received no information from official Indian sources on this matter,” a Dassault spokesman said. “French officials are inquiring with Indian authorities in order to get additional information about it.”

Rafale International is a marketing entity grouping Dassault and its main industrial partners, radar maker Thales (TCFP.PA) and engine maker Safran (SAF.PA).

France is looking for its first export buyer for the Rafale aircraft and is also in talks to sell it to Abu Dhabi, Greece and Libya.

India has said it will soon begin trials of the fighter jets.

Defence officials have said the trials could begin by the end of May and could take nearly a year.

“It will be a long process, as we will check various things, including the capabilities of the fighters in combat scenarios,” the Indian defence spokesman said.

India plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to modernise its largely Soviet-era weapons systems and is also launching its first military spy satellite next year. (Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by John Mair and Karen Foster)

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