French Miss: Dassault ducks India Defexpo

What should be one’s first order of business after achieving
L1 status in India‘s
Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition? Miss a major defence
trade show in New Delhi, of course.
After all, it is only the fighter deal of the century.

Following the MMRCA short listing last April, which saw the
Gripen, F/A-18 E/F, F-16IN, and MiG-35 knocked out of contention,  and news of the Rafale’s selection (and
Eurofighter’s effective departure) in January, I was not exactly expecting an
MMRCA orgy at this year’s Defexpo India 2012. But I did take it for granted
that I would encounter  confident signs
of French satisfaction, such as Rafale banners or even a full sized mock up.

As I wandered the halls of DefExpo this morning, however, I
felt an unease grow in me. Something was just not right. After several puzzled
moments it dawned on me: no Rafale stuff!

To be fair, Defexpo is chaotic as only an Indian tradeshow
can be. It is conceivable that perhaps I missed an enormous Dassault pavilion
with ‘MMRCA final contender!’ emblazoned all over the place, but try as I
might, I could find hardly a hint that MMRCA  exists. I checked a list of show participants:
no Dassault, no Rafale.

Evan Pilatus, whose PC 7 Mk II has achieved L1 status in the
basic trainer competition, has a modest stand. 
Nothing fancy, but at least there are a few guys hanging around with a
nice coffee machine.

Eurofighter, for its part, has a decent-sized stand manned
by a big contingent – a large enough presence to suggest they are still quite
hopeful that their French  foe will again
succumb to the Curse of the Rafale. The French team is getting a reputation as
the Andy Murray of fighter competitions after 11th hour chokes in
the Brazilian and UAE campaigns. A large model of the Captor-E AESA was
prominently displayed in the stand.

After some searching I found a model of the Rafale at the modest
Thales stand.

“I’m looking for the Dassault stand,” said I to the booth
babe.

“Who is that?”

“Er, Rafale?”

“If you pass me your card I’ll have him call you.”

“I’ll come back, thanks.”

Perhaps the Rafale team is fearful of celebrating too soon,
lest they jinx their chances in the delicate negotiations now underway. If so,
then their fear of bringing bad luck upon themselves almost borders on
paranoia.

I mentioned the French no-show to an executive involved in
one of the campaigns that didn’t make the cut last April.

“If you had L1 status, would you be promoting (cool fighter
X) today?”

“Of course! It’s all about building confidence.” Then, with
a shrug: “But that’s just the French.”

The Asian Skies blog will again hunt for the elusive Rafale
tomorrow.

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