India is currently at an impasse with China along the real line of control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector.
Six Rafale fighter jets are expected to land at their base in Ambala on July 27 – instead of four that were originally scheduled to be delivered in the first batch – as France steps up efforts to meet the immediate needs of the IAF, said l one of the above, who spoke on condition of anonymity. An IAF spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the development.
India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France as part of an agreement worth 59,000 crore rupees in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to stop the worrisome shift in combat capabilities ‘Air Force.
“We know that a dozen Rafale jets are ready in the facilities of the aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Mérignac. Preparations are underway to fly six Rafales to India in late July with a stopover at Al Dhafra Air Force Base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The planes will be flown by Indian pilots, “said the second person quoted above, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The 10 fighters are not all delivered in the first batch because some planes are necessary in France to train the crews of the IAF, he said.
- The twin-engine aircraft is capable of performing a variety of missions – ground and sea attack, air defense and air superiority, reconnaissance and deterrence against nuclear strikes.
- It can transport more than nine tonnes of weapons at no less than 14 hard points.
- The two Rafale squadrons will be based in Ambala in Haryana and Hasimara in West Bengal, covering the western and eastern fronts.
- Indian fighters will be equipped with Meteor missiles beyond the visual range built by the main European defense system MBDA Missile Systems.
- The Meteor’s non-leakage area is said to be three times that of today’s medium-range air-to-air missiles.
- India-specific improvements on jets include a helmet-mounted viewfinder, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with enough storage for 10 hours of data, infrared search and tracking systems, jammers and cold start capability to operate from high altitude bases.
The French Air Force will supply Indian fighters using its Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) en route to Al Dhafra from where air supply support should be provided by Russian IL-78 tankers ‘IAF, the second person told me.
Experts said the acceleration of deliveries of Rafale jets was an important development amid border tensions with China.
“It is good that the delivery of the Rafale is accelerated because its operationalization here would progress. As we are on the long term on our northern borders, their availability with the IAF would add to its offensive potential, “said Air Vice-Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional managing director, Center for Air Power Studies.
In addition to the first batch, future deliveries of Rafale fighters are also accelerated, said the first person quoted above.
According to the original delivery schedule, the first 18 jets (including the first four) were to be delivered to the IAF by February 2021, with the remainder expected from April to May 2022.
France handed over its first fighter Rafale to India during a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Mérignac on October 8.
The IAF has raised its guard to face any military provocation by the Chinese forces and the forward bases have been ordered to be on the highest alert. In addition to the Sukhoi-30 and improved MiG-29 fighter jets, the IAF operates Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters – both imported from the United States – in the region .
The IAF and the Indian army have deployed their air defense systems in eastern Ladakh while the APL-Air Force has activated several of its bases in Xinjiang and the Tibet Autonomous Region with fighter planes Chinese regularly demonstrating force in the Aksai Chin as reported by the Hindustan Times on Sunday.
India and China have dramatically increased their deployments with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery and missiles in the region which has garnered considerable global attention in recent weeks, particularly after bloodshed along the LAC in the Galwan Valley on June 15 during which 20 Indian soldiers died while on duty. An unconfirmed number of Chinese troops were also killed in the Galwan Valley scuffle.