PARIS — Work on completing an Indian contract for acquiring the Rafale fighter jet is taking time, but 95 percent of the paperwork is done, Dassault Aviation Chairman Eric Trappier said.

The deal to purchase contract for acquiring 126 Rafales is now "95 percent completed," with the French company working with the Indian authorities to review thousands of contract pages, Trappier said Wednesday, March 25 (EDS: correct), Agence France-Presse reported.

Trappier was speaking at Istres, southern France, as Dassault and Thales handed over the first two upgraded Mirage 2000 fighters to the Indian Air Force. The modernization deal, reported by La Tribune to be worth €1.4 billion (US $1.5 billion), is for 51 fighters.

"I would like to go faster [but] it is an enormous contract," Trappier said. "As I have said before, I prefer that we are taking our time now … rather than have problems later."

Dassault looks to its 60-year ties with India, forged with the company's sale of the Ouragan fighter in 1953, to help close a deal on the Rafale.

"India is Dassault Aviation's first export client and the historical relationship we nurtured with the Indian Air Force has spanned 60 years, growing from strength to strength," Trappier said in a statement.

"The Rafale is the next logical step," he said.

Thales, an electronic systems company, worked with Indian partners to modernize the Mirage and would extend the ties.

"We are ready to continue developing this teamwork in the future," said Pierre-Eric Pommellet, executive vice president at Thales and head of Defense Mission Systems.

India seeks to strengthen the domestic industrial base with the "Make in India" policy.

Dassault sees Indian work on the Mirage as helping prepare the ground for the proposed local assembly of Rafales. The Indian partner, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., (HAL), will continue the modernization contract for the remaining 49 Mirages.

HAL would be the local co-contractor for assembling the Rafale.

Thales upgraded the radar, electronic warfare and mission computer on the Mirage.


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