The team, led by the deputy chief of the air staff (projects), reached France earlier this week for a scheduled review of the project, officials said.
Five of the 36 Rafales commanded by the IAF reached Ambala Air Base on July 29 after a stopover at Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, although an official induction ceremony was held. later September 10.
Officials said the next batch of three or four Rafale planes are expected to arrive in the next few weeks (the date is being finalized) and will further strengthen the IAF’s ability to rapidly deploy forward planes amid tensions with the China and neighboring Pakistan.
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The IAF expects three or four Rafale planes to be delivered every two months, with all planes likely to join the Air Force’s combat fleet by the end of the year.
The Rafale fighters – the first imported jets to be inducted into the IAF in 23 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 aircraft entered service in June 1997 – significantly improved the offensive capabilities of the IAF.
The IAF operates Rafale fighter jets in the Ladakh theater where the army is on high alert to deal with any provocation from China even as military and diplomatic negotiations have failed to reduce friction in the sensitive theater of Ladakh.
IAF Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria recently said the integration of Rafale fighter jets has brought a platform armed with advanced weapons, sensors and technology that give the ‘IAF an operational and technological advantage. “Combined with the improved operational capabilities of our current fighter fleet, this gives us the ability to shoot first and strike deep and hard, even in contested airspace,” said the IAF chief.
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The jets were ordered from France in September 2016 as part of a government-to-government agreement worth Rs 59,000 crore. India-specific improvements to the Rafales include a helmet-mounted sight, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with 10-hour data storage, infrared search and tracking systems, jammers, a cold engine start capability to operate from high altitude bases and towed decoys to ward off incoming missiles.
The jet is capable of performing a variety of missions – land and sea attack, air defense and air superiority, reconnaissance and deterrence of nuclear strikes. It can carry almost 10 tons of weapons.