Three more Rafale omnirole, 4.5 generation fighters are on their way to India from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase in France and are scheduled to land in Jamnagar airbase later on 5 May evening. The three fighters will then fly to Ambala before they are repurposed to the Hashimara airbase in north Bengal later.
The aircraft will be refuelled en route by India’s strategic ally, the United Arab Emirates, using Airbus 330 multi-role transport tankers over the Middle East skies.
With three more fighters joining the Indian Air Force (IAF), the total numbers of Rafale fighter jets in Ambala will reach 20 with another four expected to join within a fortnight from France. The process of induction of Rafale jets has become tedious during the coronavirus pandemic with the IAF pilots having to undergo complete quarantine in France before being cleared to fly back to India. The IAF is currently using seven Rafales to train the pilots in France.
While the Golden Arrows squadron in Ambala has 18 fighters with state of the art weapons and missiles, the remaining planes, perhaps six, will form the second squadron in Hashimara airbase. Sitting on the mouth of Silliguri corridor, Hashimara airbase will add teeth to the entire eastern sector against the Chinese Air Force. The airbase is currently being overhauled to become the second home of Rafale fighters.
When French manufacturer Dassault delivers all the 36 Rafales by the latter half of 2021, the IAF will have been in a state of preparedness as the disengagement and de-escalation plan with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh is still not complete as the Chinese army is not willing to restore status quo ante in Gogra-Hot Springs sector along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
China is a matter of serious military concern as the Indian Army continues to remain deployed in the area and is monitoring PLA movements.