India obtains Rafale fighter jets from France, bolstering its air force

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“The birds have landed safely in Ambala,” Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted. “The touchdown of Rafale fighter jets in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history. ”

Singh said the twin-engine, multi-role fighters would “revolutionize” the Indian Air Force (IAF). Ordered in 2016, they are available in a single or two-seater version and can be armed with air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-ship missiles as well as a 30 mm gun, according to the manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

Dassault also boasts the Rafale’s flight control system, which includes the ability to fly on autopilot in ground-following mode in all weather conditions.

“This aircraft has very good flight performance and its weapons, radar and other electronic warfare sensors and capabilities are among the best in the world. His arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threats that may be posed to our country, “Singh reportedly said in a government press release.

The arrival of the jets in India comes about six weeks after Indian troops fought with Chinese soldiers along the Line of Real Control, the disputed border between the two high powers of the Himalayas. Twenty Indians have been killed in close combat and fears persist about further hostilities.

Singh referred to the dispute on Wednesday.

“If this is anyone who should be concerned or criticize this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be the one who wants to threaten our territorial integrity,” he tweeted.

The Indian media has been filled with rave reviews from experts on the Rafale jets for what China could bring in any air conflict, including China’s new J-20 stealth fighters. The Rafale is not a stealth aircraft, but it is touted for its low profile which is not easy to spot on radar.

How the two planes can compete against each other is open debate, but the Rafale may have a distinct advantage: combat experience.

Flown by French forces, the Rafale has been used in operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria, Dassault Aviation indicates on its website.

India officially accepted the delivery of the first batch of jets to the French factory where they are manufactured last October.

Indian pilots trained on the aircraft and flew it on the 8,500-kilometer (5,280-mile) journey between France and India. The trip included a stopover at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, with a French Air Force tanker providing in-flight refueling, the Indian government said in a press release.

Two Indian Su-30 fighters escorted the Rafales as they entered Indian airspace, the government said.

Besides the Su-30s, other fighters in the Indian fleet include the Mirage 2000, LCA Tejas, MiG-27, MiG-29 and Jaguar.

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