In a boost to the morale of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which finds itself preparing for the possibility of hostilities with China, its first five Rafale fighter aircraft will land on Indian soil next Monday (July 27).
The aircraft will form the nucleus of the IAF’s first Rafale squadron, Number 17 Squadron, which calls itself the Golden Arrows. They will be based in Ambala.
The five Rafales will take off from Istres, France, and will be flown to India by IAF pilots, with mid-air refuelling en route from an accompanying French airforce tanker aircraft. They will make just one stopover – at the United Arab Emirates’ Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, according to Livefist, an authoritative defence blog.
The IAF stated on Monday that the arrival of the first Rafales will be low-key and without ceremony or media coverage. A more public inauguration will take place at the end of August.
In September 2016, the IAF had signed a 7.8-billion euro contract with French aerospace firm Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, which were to commence delivery in September 2019. As it turns out, the delivery is commencing nine months late. With the first squadron likely to take about three months to become operationally ready, Rafales could begin combat operations by September-October.
“IAF air crew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. After arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest,” stated the IAF.
With the IAF pressing Dassault to deliver fighters quickly to make up for lost time, there are expectations that one-two more Rafales would join the fleet every month. At that rate, both Rafale squadrons could be delivered and operational by late 2022.
Those could potentially be followed by more Rafales. In November, the Supreme Court dismissed a bunch of petitions against the Rafale contract, clearing the decks for Dassault to compete with other global vendors in another ongoing Indian procurement for 114 medium fighters.
News Source: Business Standard