The Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to receive five more Rafale fighter jets by April-end. These five will be in addition to the batch of three jets that arrived from France yesterday
The IAF announced the arrival of three jets late Wednesday night saying the jets were provided mid-air re-fuelling by tankers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force.
The IAF also thanked the UAE air force for re-fuelling the Rafale jets, describing it as yet another milestone in the strong relationship between the two air forces.
The arrival of three jets yesterday means the IAF now has 14 of these planes, each capable of carrying lethal missiles which widen the arc of operations.
The new additions are expected to be based at Hasimara in northern part of Bengal. The key base is close to the narrow Siliguri Corridor, which is strategically vital in defending the areas abutting the Chumbi valley – held by China. Doklam, where a standoff had ensued between India and China in 2017, is at the southern-edge of the Chumbi valley.
The first squadron, (16-18 planes each), was raised at Ambala. India had ordered 36 jets at a cost of 7.89 billion euros (Rs 59,000 crore) in 2016. The first lot arrived in July 2020 and since then the jets have been coming in batches.
French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, who was at an event in Kochi on March 30, spoke about the timeline of the delivery, saying, “By 2022 all 36 jets will be delivered to India.”
The Rafales are the first step to building up the IAF strength to 42 fighter jet squadrons. The IAF currently has 31 squadrons against the need for 42 squadrons, assessed to tackle a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China. The Ministry of Defence has okayed 83 TEJAS MK-1A jets and is looking at additional MiG 29 and Sukhoi 30MKI jets from Russia.