Even as the Rafale deal flew into stormy weather once again, six Rafale warplanes are all set to land in India on April 28. Four more of this fourth-generation-plus fighter jets are expected to arrive next month taking the total strength of the Rafale fleet force in the Indian Air Force (IAF) to 24.
The IAF is expected to induct these Rafale warplanes to complete the Golden Arrows squadron in Ambala and to launch a new Rafale squadron at the Hasimara airbase in West Bengal. The Rafale fighter aircraft is touted as a “game-changer” for India in the regional politics of South Asia.
The six planes, which will arrive this month will be inducted into No. 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows based at India’s oldest airbase, the Ambala Air Force Station Disbanded in 2016 when IAF was phasing out the Russian manufactured MiG 21 jets, this squadron was revived in September last year after the induction of the first batch of the French-origin warplanes, reported Hindustan Times.
Quoting a senior IAF official, the report said four fighters out of the batch of six, will be added to the existing 14 fighters to complete the Golden Arrows squadron, which has a total strength of 18 fighters. The remaining two will give birth to a second Rafale squadron at the Hasimara airbase. The set of four Rafale fighter planes coming in May will also join this squadron.
The Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who is visiting Paris later this month, had once said that the Rafale plane was important for the IAF because of its radar-evading stealth profile, and for being a fourth-generation-plus fighter. These warplanes which are joining the IAF have been fitted with India specific enhancements such as the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, Mica multi-mission air-to-air missiles, Scalp deep-strike cruise missiles and the Hammer smart weapon.
Meanwhile, French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain told reporters last week that the 33 Rafale jets that India had signed up for will be delivered by 2022 as per the contract.
India had inked an agreement with the French government to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for ₹59,000 crore ($8.7 billion). But the deal ran into rough weather when the Opposition led by the Congress claimed that the NDA government was buying the planes at an inflated price.
However, the Supreme Court and the government’s top auditor, Comptroller and Auditor General, had failed to find any wrongdoing on the part of the government. But the allegations made by the Opposition recently gained wing as a French online journal, Mediapart, alleged that Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale jet, paid €1 million to a Sushen Gupta, described as a “middleman”, for this purchase of 36 jets.
However, a French diplomat in Delhi has refuted this allegation and said that the French aviation giant, Dassault Aviation, and the government would issue an appropriate rebuttal to the ‘so-called expose’ by the online portal. India has negotiated a better deal than Greece, he added.