ISTRES, France (Reuters) - Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) is raising Rafale fighter jet production in anticipation of further export orders, Chief Executive Eric Trappier said on Monday, as Egypt became the first country outside France to take delivery of the plane.
Trappier said the number of annual Rafale deliveries would increase from 2018, adding that the rate could at least double from a current 11, being produced at plants including Dassault Aviation’s main assembly location at Merignac near Bordeaux in southwestern France.
He reaffirmed that he expected to sign a contract for 36 Rafale jets with India in coming months after negotiations began in April.
Egypt in February gave Dassault Aviation its first export win for the Rafale, whose rivals include the Eurofighter, made by Airbus (AIR.PA), Finmeccanica SIFI.MI and BAE Systems (BAES.L), Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-16 and Saab’s (SAABb.ST) Gripen.
Since then, Qatar has also placed an order and talks are under way with Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Trappier has said he hopes to win a fourth Rafale contract this year.
“After the Mirage 5, the Alpha Jet and the Mirage 2000, the Rafale is the fourth Dassault aircraft to fly in Egyptian colours, and Egypt is the first export customer for the Rafale, as it was for the Mirage 2000,” Trappier said.
Egypt took delivery of the first three of its order for 24 Rafales on Monday at the military base of Istres in southeastern France. Egyptian pilots, trained by the French Air Force, will fly the jets to Cairo on Tuesday, Dassault said.
Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Andrew Callus and David Holmes