Three more Rafale fighters touched down in India from France on Wednesday evening, to add to the eight such omni-role jets already inducted by the IAF.
The three Rafales were refuelled mid-air by Airbus MRTT tankers of the UAE Air Force, in yet another indication of close military ties with the Gulf country, during their over 7,000 km flight to the Jamnagar airbase.
The IAF has now inducted 11 of the 36 twin-engine Rafales, which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons, under the ₹59,000 crore deal inked with France in September 2016. All 36 will be delivered by 2022.
The 4.5-generation fighters have a combat range of 780km to 1,650km, without mid-air refuelling, depending on the nature of their mission. The IAF fighters are armed with long stand-off weapons like the over 300-km range ‘Scalp’ air-to-ground cruise missiles.
The fighters are also being equipped with the top-notch ‘Meteor’ air-to-air missiles which, with a strike range of 120 to 150km, can outgun any missile that can currently be unleashed by Pakistani or Chinese jets.
The IAF has also ordered the ‘Hammer’ air-to-ground precision-guided munitions for the Rafales, in a deal that came last year amid the ongoing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.