New Delhi: The Indian Air Force’s is all set to get a huge boost with the arrival of another 16 Rafale fighter jets by Aprile next year. Five of the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India is buying from France have already arrived in the country. Those aircraft have already been inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Sources who are aware of the development said that the next batch of three Rafale jets will arrive in India November 5. Three more Rafales will arrive in January next year, another three in March and seven in April. Seven Rafale fighters are already being used for IAF fighter pilot training in France. So if those seven also arrive sometime next year, it will certainly be a huge boost to the IAF. The sources also said that France’s biggest jet engine maker Safran ready to make fighter engines and ancillaries in India.
Five Rafale jets flew July 29 to the Ambala airbase via Abu Dhabi. The stopover in Dubai was made for refueling. However, the next batch of three jets will arrive at the IAF base in Ambala from Bordeaux-Merignac facility in France without any stopover. This is because those aircraft will be fuelled mid-air. The five aircraft that have arrived in India have already been inducted into the IAF’s Golden Arrow Squadron. These jets have also regularly been making sorties along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.
This means that by April next year, the Golden Arrows squadron will be complete with 18 fighters. The remaining three can be sent to the Hashimara airbase in north Bengal’s Alipurduar to counter the threat posed by China on the eastern front. All the fighters are equipped with Mica and Meteor air-to-air missiles along with Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles. India has now requested Safran for the air-to-ground modular weapon known as ‘Hammer’ with a 250kg warhead.
France is willing to offer more Rafale fighters to India. On the other hand Safran’s offer of making the ‘Snecma M88’ engines in India has also been accepted officials said.
The M-88 engines are just not for Rafale fighters. They can also be deployed to power Light Combat Aircraft Mark II and twin-engine advanced multi-role combat aircraft. These aircraft have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The IAF plans to buy 83 LCA Mark I A jets, taking the total number of Tejas variants ordered to 123.