The fourth batch of three Rafale jets is set to arrive in India on Wednesday evening. On the way from France, the fighter aircraft will be given mid-air refuelling over the Gulf of Oman by United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force’s Airbus 330 multi-role transport tankers, reported news18.com.
The three arriving aircraft will be part of the Golden Arrows Squadron at Ambala Air Force station in Haryana, increasing Indian Air Force’s Rafale strength to 14. According to sources quoted by Hindustan Times, the three Rafale jets will take from at 7 am on March 31 from Merignac airbase in France’s Bordeaux. And they are likely to reach Gujarat around 7 am.
Official sources suggest a second squadron of Rafale jets will soon be raised at Hasimara air base in West Bengal as more Rafales are expected to arrive in the next few months. There are around 18 jets in a squadron. The delivery of all 36 Rafales is expected to be complete by mid-2022.
India had received its first batch of five Rafales on July 29 last year, followed by three more on November 3 and another three on January 27. The delivery of the combat aircraft began nearly four years after India had France had signed an inter-governmental agreement at a cost of ₹59,000 crore for the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft.
The Rafale aircraft, known for their precision strikes and air superiority, are built by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation. They are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.
The Rafale jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDAs Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets. Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran.
The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy. Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.
(With inputs from agencies)