Indian Air Force (IAF) is getting ready to receive the first batch of four `Rafale’ fighter aircraft from Dassault Aviation in France next month.
These state-of-the-art Rafale fighter planes are twin-engine multi-role fighter aircraft, nuclear-capable and can engage in both air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks. After receiving these combat aircraft equipped with Meteor missile, SCALP ground attack missiles with a range of up to 300 Kms will undergo extensive trials before being formally inducted in the service in 2020. These aircraft are also fitted with AESA radar, SPECTRA Electronic Warfare System and IRST System.
IAF pilots and ground crews are undergoing extensive training in France and will test these machines intensively for 1,500 hours for validating the specifications requested by India. These new machines will be based at Ambala Airbase in ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron which is closer to the Western border with Pakistan. The Ambala Airbase is also home to the Jaguars, which due to their rapid deployment capabilities is deployed to deal with incidents from Pakistan.
The other squadron of the Rafale fighters are expected to be based out of Hashimara, West Bengal and this will be in an effort to tackle any incidents coming from China, according to sources.
The pilots of the IAF have had an opportunity to fly these aircraft at the recently concluded Garuda joint Air Force exercise, where the French side had sent in Rafale and Mirage aircraft for the war games. Even during Ex-Varuna joint naval exercise, The French side had sent in Rafale aircraft which were in a combat drill with Indian Navy’s Russian MiG-29 K fighter machines.
These four aircraft are being delivered in September to the IAF as per the contract and the whole order of 36 fighter jets (two squadrons) will be concluded in the next two years. The contract for 36 fighter jets was inked in September 2016, with the French government and Dassault Aviation for around Euro 7.8 billion.