In a major boost to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) firepower, three more French Rafale multi-combat fighter jets are expected to arrive in India very soon. Five Rafale jets flew to the Ambala airbase via Abu Dhabi on July 29 and have already been inducted into the IAF’s Squadron 17.
The five Rafale jets were inducted at the IAF’s Ambala airbase on September 10 in the presence of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly. Under the 2016 agreement, India will get 36 Rafale jet from France as part of a Rs 59000 crore deal.
The next batch of three Rafales will arrive in Ambala airbase on November 5 directly from the Bordeaux-Merignac facility, according to sources. The three Rafales will reach Ambala by flying non-stop from France. They will also be accompanied by French Air Force fighter and mid-air refueller. With their arrival, the total number of Rafale aircraft in the Indian Air Force will reach eight.
The Rafale jets will fly directly from Istres in France to Jamnagar and they will be accompanied by French Air Force mid-air refuelling aircraft. A team of experts led by Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Projects) is coordinating the logistical issues for receiving the three combat jets, according to news agency IANS. The air force pilots are being trained in batches in France at Saint-Dizier air base.
Seven Rafale fighters are already being used for IAF fighter pilot training in France.
Earlier after the induction of the Rafale aircraft, Rajnath Singh had said that the Rafale deal is a game changer. "I am confident our air force has acquired a technological edge with Rafale," the minister had pointed out. The Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft and has the latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture. It is an omni-role aircraft which means it can carry out at least four missions in one sortie.
The fighter aircraft has HAMMER missiles. It will also be armed with beyond visual range missiles like Meteor, SCALP and MICA, increasing their ability to take on incoming targets from a distance.
Besides, the induction of 16 additional Rafale fighters by April 2021 will add to the IAF’s strike capability. The 16 omni-role Rafale jet fighters will be inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron by April 2021, as per sources.
France’s biggest jet engine maker Safran has said that it is ready to make fighter engines and ancillaries in India, according to people familiar with the matter.
All the fighters are equipped with Mica and Meteor air-to-air missiles along with Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles. India has now requested Safran for the air-to-ground modular weapon known as Hammer with a 250kg warhead.
The development comes even as tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China continue. The Chinese build-up at the LAC remains despite a series of diplomatic and military talks.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is expected to visit France later this week during his European tour. During the visit, he will hold high-level meetings at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs with dedicated consultations on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as India prepares to be on the high table from January.
Both sides are keen to jointly work at the UNSC when India becomes a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council starting first January 2021.
France is a veto-holding permanent member of the UNSC. Shringla will also make a speech at a prominent French think tank.