6 Rafales to fly in by July-end, boost IAF amid LAC stand-off
India urges France to speed up delivery of jets; missile delivery begins
In a big boost to the Indian Air Force’s air power at a time of when the country is involved in a bitter stand-off with China, six Rafale fighter aircraft armed with Meteor and Scalp cruise missiles, will fly into India by July end.
India has asked France to speed up the delivery of the Rafale fighters. According to the original plan, four Rafale jets were to arrive in India by the end of July. France is working to see if an additional two aircraft can be sent after the request by the Indian government.
The Rafale jets will give India an edge over China and Pakistan as they will be armed with the advanced beyond visual range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missiles which have a range of up to 150 km. Neither the Pakistan Air Force nor the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has a missile to counter it. The Meteors could prove deadly during a dogfight.
Rafale fighters will also be armed with Scalp cruise air-to-surface missiles, which have a range of over 300 km. The deliveries of both these missiles have begun, said sources.
The Rafales flown by IAF pilots will reach the Ambala air base on July 27 after a stopover at an air base in Abu Dhabi. Indian pilots and technicians have been undergoing training in France for many months. Around 10 Rafale jets have been delivered to India in France and some of them are undergoing advance testing by Indian crew before they are flown into the country.
Four of the jets were to have been delivered by the end of May, but the schedule was affected due to the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown. In 2016, India signed a `59,000-crore deal for 36 Rafales which will be based in the Ambala and Hasimara (West Bengal) air bases.
India has been contacting its defence partner countries asking them for quick delivery of weapons and spare parts due to heightened tensions with China.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh during a visit to Moscow last week, had asked Russia for timely delivery of weapons and spare parts needed for tanks, aircraft and helicopters. India had also planned to purchase 33 MiG-29 and Sukhoi30 MKI aircraft from Russia.
An Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jet flies in the skies of Leh in Ladakh on Monday. The IAF is expected to get an advantage with the Rafale over China and Pakistan.