The Indian Air Force will induct its first batch of five Rafale fighter jets imported from France at the Ambala air base on July 29 if weather permits, an IAF spokesperson said on Monday.
“The IAF’s air and ground crews have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly-advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. Efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest,” said Wing Commander Indranil Nandi. A formal induction ceremony will take place next month, he said.
The air force is inducting the fighters at a time of heightened military tensions with China. Hindustan Times on Sunday reported that theIAF could deploy its new Rafale fighters in the Ladakhsector as part of India’s overarching plan to strengthen its military posture in the region, where Indian and Chinese forces are locked in a tense border confrontation and disengagement has turned out to be a challenging process.
India-specific enhancements on the jets include cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases.
Acting on a special request by the IAF, France has accelerated the deliveries of Rafale fighters to India — five jets are coming instead of four that were originally planned to be delivered in the first batch.
Preparations are currently on to fly the jets to India with a stopover at Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates
The French air force will refuel the Indian fighters using its Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft on their way to Al Dhafra from where aerial refueling support is expected to be provided by the IAF’s Russ