NEW DELHI: A fresh batch of three more Rafale fighter jets made by French defence manufacturer – Dassault Aviation – will arrive in India on Wednesday, after mid-air refuelling in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The three upcoming Rafale fighters will join the IAF’s Golden Arrows Squadron in Ambala, and take the squadron strength to 14. Confirming the development, Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, had said on Tuesday said that five extra Rafale jets will be ferried to India by the end of April.
“This would be other than three Rafale which is arriving on Wednesday,” he added. Calling it a “matter of great pride”, he said, “we’ve been able to deliver on schedule and even ahead of schedule in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Right now, 21 Rafales delivered to India, 11 already ferried to India, three are right now being ferried and 5 extra will be ferried by end of April,” French Envoy to India said.
The French envoy added, “Total in 2022, the 36 aircraft will have been delivered as per contract.” The aircraft had started joining the Air Force fleet in the July-August timeframe last year and were quickly operationalised by the Air Force in the shortest possible time.
India had ordered 36 Rafale aircraft from France in September 2016 and more than 50 per cent of these would have arrived in India by April-end 2021. The first batch of five Rafales arrived in India on July 28 and was officially inducted in September at Ambala Air Base in Haryana on September 10 by the central government.
The second batch of three Rafale jets arrived on November 3, followed by the third batch of three more jets that joined the IAF on January 27. These aircraft had also been deployed for patrolling along the China front in eastern Ladakh and other fronts during the height of the confrontation with the Chinese troops.
The planes equipped with the Hammer missiles have enhanced the IAF’s capability to carry out air-to-ground strikes like the one in Balakot.