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France's Dassault targets Lockheed in combat aircraft deal

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A File Photo of Dassault's Rafale fighter (L) and Lockheed Martin's F-16

NEW DELHI (BNS): Lockheed’s French rival, Dassault Aviation — whose Rafale fighter is pitched against Lockheed Martin’s F-16 IN in the MMRCA tender — is contemplating asking the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to disqualify Lockheed Martin from the tender. Sources in Dassault allege that Lockheed Martin has illegally obtained access to classified documents relating to the competition.

According to the business daily, Business Standard, Sources close to the MMRCA contract point out that tension has been growing between Dassault and Lockheed Martin since the end of 2008, when the Indian media reported that Dassault had been eliminated from the MMRCA contract because it had not fulfilled some of the technical requirements spelt out in the Indian tender. Weeks after the report — and apparently after French President Nikolas Sarkozy spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the phone — it was announced that Dassault was very much in contention.

The MMRCA competition is growing increasingly heated, with all six competitors — Lockheed Martin; Boeing; Dassault; Grippen; MiG; and Eurofighter — scheduled to produce their aircraft for flight testing by the Indian Air Force, turn by turn, starting this month.

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