India to get first batch of Rafales

India is set to get the first batch of four to six Rafale fighters, armed with the Meteor air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles, towards the end of July. Amid the ongoing troop confrontation in eastern Ladakh with China, India has requested France to speed up the delivery schedule of the 36 Rafales to be delivered under the Rs.59,000 crore deal inked in September 2016.

Sources said the first four to six Rafales, flown by IAF pilots who have been trained in France, are likely to touch down at the Ambala airbase on July 27 after an overnight stopover at the Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi. “Four Rafales are definitely coming, but the number is likely go up to six,” said a source.

On their way from UAE to India, the omni-role fighters, also capable of delivering nuclear weapons, are likely to undergo mid-air refueling through IL-78 tanker aircraft of IAF. Initial deliveries of the Meteor missiles, which with a strike range of 120 to 150-km can outgun any missile that can be unleashed by Pakistani or Chinese jets, and the over 300-km range Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles have already begun, said sources. The first four Rafales were to reach Ambala by May this year, with all the 36 jets arriving by April 2022. Though the arrival of the first batch got delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, India has now asked France to compress the entire delivery schedule of the 36 jets, said sources.

The Rafales will significantly add to the edge the IAF already enjoys over the PLA-Air Force along the 3,488-km LAC.

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