Today, on 27th July, the first batch of five Rafale jets took off from France airbase to join Indian Air Force fleet. The Indian Ambassador to France, Jawed Ashraf, was present at the airbase in France. He interacted with the Indian pilots and wished them a safe flight to India with a single hop. The jets will get refuelled by French Air Force tanker aircraft on their way to an airbase in UAE. After a short break at UAE base, the jets will leave for India.
Rafale aircrafts maneuvered by the world’s best pilots, soar into the sky. Emblematic of new heights in India-France defence collaboration #ResurgentIndia #NewIndia@IAF_MCC @MeaIndia @rajnathsingh @Dassault_OnAir @DefenceMinIndia @PMOIndia@JawedAshraf5 @DDNewslive @ANI pic.twitter.com/FrEQYROWSv— India in France (@Indian_Embassy) July 27, 2020
Bon Voyage: Indian Ambassador to #France interacts with the Indian pilots of the Rafale. Congratulates and wishes them a safe flight to India with a single hop. #ResurgentIndia #NewIndia #Rafale@IAF_MCC @MeaIndia @rajnathsingh @Dassault_OnAir @DefenceMinIndia @PMOIndia pic.twitter.com/jk3IWD9tYU— India in France (@Indian_Embassy) July 27, 2020
In a press release issued by Indian Embassy in France, they said that India took a significant step in strengthening airpower and defence preparedness. The jets will fly from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France to India. The statement read, “in accordance with the contract, Indian Air Force pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon system by Dassault. India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes India’s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then Mystere, Jaguars and the Mirages. “In a gesture of friendship, the Government of France will also send an aircraft with medical equipment and experts on 26th July to support India’s efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The delivery of the first batch of Rafale jets was delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic. These five jets will join Indian Air Force fleet in Ambala in Haryana on 29th July. Last week, IAF said, “IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.”
The IAF may deploy Rafales in Ladhak amid increasing tension between India and China. Recently, India decided to equip the modern fighter jet with lethal HAMMER missile along with other high-end weapons. The jets have some India-specific modifications including radar warning receivers, helmet-mounted displays, tracking systems and infra-red search. HAMMER is capable of destroying targets in 60-70 KM range.
Till now 12 IAF pilots have completed training to fly Rafale jets. Though most of the pilots will get training in France, some of them will undergo training in India. During a telephonic conversation between Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly, she conveyed that Rafale jets will be delivered as per schedule.
India is spending around Rs.60,000 crore on the jets. 30 out of 36 jets will be added for combat roles while six jets will be for training purpose. The training jets will have most of the combat capabilities.
The story of Rafale
During the UPA era, the Indian government planned to procure 126 MMRCA jets. The idea was scrapped for the previous NDA government. During a visit to France in 2016, PM Modi signed an inter-government agreement with France and ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Since the NDA government announced the procurement of Rafale jets, the opposition parties, primarily Congress, are accusing the Modi government over price, the number of jets, offset contracts and alleged bypassing of HAL among other. A petition was also filed against the deal in Supreme Court, but the judgment was in favour of the NDA government. A review petition for the same was also rejected. Rahul Gandhi called PM Modi a thief and used the slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai” for which he had to apologize in front of the court.
The remaining fighter jets will be delivered in the next few years. As per the agreement, the last batch will reach India by September 2021.