Amidst border standoff with China, India is all set to strengthen its air power with the induction of Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets which are scheduled to arrive in India by July end.
India will receive the first batch of 4 to 6 Rafale fighter jets, armed with the Meteor air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles. The development came after India had asked France to speed up the delivery schedule of the 36 Rafales, under the deal inked in September 2016, even as tensions continue to simmer between India and China along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
According to sources, the batch of allotment of the Rafale jets, flown by Indian pilots, are likely to arrive at the Ambala air base on July 27 after a stopover at the Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi. The fighter jets are likely to undergo mid-air refueling through IL-78 tanker aircraft of IAF during their flight from UAE to India.
The delivery of Meteor missiles, which have a strike range of 120 to 150 kilometres and can foil any missiles launched by Pakistani or Chinese jets, along with the 300-KM range Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles have already started, reports claimed.
According to the original delivery schedule, Rafales were to arrive in India by May this year, with the remaining of the 36 jets to be delivered by April 2022. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic across the world, the delivery of the first batch of Rafale fighter jets got delayed by over two months. India had now asked France to abridge the entire delivery schedule, on account of the rising tensions along the LAC with China.
Rafales are set to play a significant role in further augmenting capabilities of the IAF and add to its superiority which it currently enjoys over the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force(PLAAF). The operational dynamics for achieving “air dominance” will change with the induction of the Rafale fighter jets, armed with Meteor beyond visual ranger(BVR) missiles, which are powered by Ramjet engines to fly at Mach 4 speeds.
IAF has already mobilised Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29 and Jaguar fighters into the forward air bases along the LAC to serve as a deterrence against Chinese misadventure.
In October 2019, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first Rafale jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Dassault Aviation’s final assembly facility in Merignac during his visit to France for the 2nd India-France ministerial-level annual defence dialogue.
According to earlier reports, 18 Rafales will be deployed at the Ambala(17 Golden Arrows squadron) and Hasimara (101 Falcons squadrons) airbases to combat the threat emanating from Pakistan and China.