The first batch of four French Rafale fighter aircraft will arrive in India next May.
The French `Rafale’ fighter aircraft and the Russian S-400 missile defence system together are expected to enhance the operational capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF) by filling in the gaps in the combat capabilities of the force. Presently the IAF against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons are down to 31.
The IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria has said that “Rafale and S-400 missile defence system will significantly enhance our operational capability.”
The first batch of four French Rafale fighter aircraft will arrive in India next May and are equipped with the most modern avionics and with India specific enhancements. These four are out of the 36 aircraft India is buying through the Foreign Military sales (FMS) route.
Responding to a question about the number of aircraft which are arriving, the chief clarified that the defence minister Rajnath Singh will be in Paris next week and will receive 1+3 fighter aircraft. “The Indian pilots will be doing their training in the India specific Rafale and by the time they aircraft reach the Indian skies next May the pilots will be fully trained.”
As reported by Financial Express Online, on October 8, the defence minister will be creating history when he flies a sortie in a two-seater trainer version of the aircraft. He will be the first defence minister to fly sorties in fighter jets in a short span of a few weeks.
So what was the event on September 19?
Last month a pre-delivery inspection team had gone to Paris to complete the handover formalities. This means, after the completion of documentation, the IAF technically accepted the aircraft. “The formal handing over of the fighter aircraft will be done next week when the minister is there,” he added.
Dismissing reports of 36 more Rafales through a separate bid, the chief clarified that “Process for acquiring 114 fighter aircraft has already been initiated. So far the RFI for the 114 has been received from the vendors and the process for an AON has started.”
The 114 aircraft deal which is worth more than $ 10 billion will be manufactured in India as part of the Strategic Partnership (SP).
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Modernisation of the IAF
The phasing out of the ageing MiG-21 will be completed by year-end — non-Bison version of the MiG 21 aircraft will be phased out between December and March. According to the chief, the MiG-21 Bison fleet will gradually be phased out depending on their technical life.
Responding to queries about the modernisation of the IAF, he said the focus is on indigenisation besides acquiring critical weapons and spares to maintain operational preparedness.
The IAF will soon place an order for 83 more indigenously designed and manufactured Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), the cost for which is being negotiated with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The cost negotiations were in an advanced stage.
Also, the IAF will procure 21 more MIG-29s and 12 more SU-30s.
Responding to a question about China building infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and also modernising its air force, according to him the IAF is monitoring all the activities in that area and India too is trying to improve its infrastructure.
Since the Pilatus trainers from Switzerland have been dropped the IAF is awaiting the indigenous trainer jet — HTT-40, designed and developed by the state-owned HAL. “The Spin tests are not the only specifications; there is still a long way to go.”