New Delhi. The first batch of French Rafale fighter jets will reach India by April end next year after they are handed over to the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh next month in France who will be accompanied by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.
Meanwhile, IAF pilots will undergo advanced training on the Indian jets in France.
“The first batch is scheduled to be handed over in September. From then to April 2020 three batches of eight IAF pilots along with engineers and technicians will undergo advanced training on the Indian jets in France,” sources said. “The Indian-standard Rafale with all India Specific Enhancements (ISE) will be operationally ready latest by September 2021.”
The first Rafale for India made its maiden flight on October 30, 2018 in France and is designated RB008. RB stands for Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria who as then Deputy Chief of IAF led the Indian negotiation team and had a major role in the contract negotiations. This is an instrumented aircraft flown by test pilots and all 13 ISE will be incorporated, tested and certified on this. The RB008 will be the last to be delivered to the IAF, 67 months after the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) in April 2022.
In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87-billion IGA for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition following the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.
As per the IGA, deliveries begin 36 months from signing of the contract and will be completed in 67 months. The government has consistently maintained that the deal was done to ensure quick delivery of the fighter aircraft to the IAF which is facing a drop in squadron strength.
Some of the ISE are incorporated in the aircraft during manufacturing. The remaining will be incorporated in 2021 over three months, the source said adding, “This includes both software and hardware upgrades.”