The Indian Air Force (IAF) will induct its first batch of five Rafale fighter jets at the Ambala air base on July 29 if the weather permits, according to an official statement.
“The first batch of five Indian Air Force Rafale is likely to arrive in India by end of July. The aircraft will be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on July 29 subject to weather,” the IAF said. It said the formal induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August.
“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 said.
Official sources said the the Rafale jets are likely to be deployed in the Ladakh sector as part of the IAF’s efforts to enhance its operational capabilities along the Line of Actual Control with China in view of the heightened border tensions with the country.
In a separate statement, the IAF said its top commanders will take stock of the current operational scenario and deployments at a three-day conference beginning Wednesday. “The plan of action for operational capability enhancement of the IAF in the next decade will also be discussed,” it said.
Officials said arrival of the Rafale jets will further strengthen the IAF’s combat capabilities.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around ₹58,000 crore. The Rafale aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons.
European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets. Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile, designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.
The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. It is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale fighter jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft. The second squadron of Rafale jets will be stationed at the Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The IAF spent around ₹400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases. Out of the 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.
(With inputs from agencies)