Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria will flag off six Rafale fighter jets from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase in south-western France on April 21.On April 20, the IAF chief is scheduled to visit France and will be in the country till April 23. A Hindustan TimesIAF1 report stated, earlier, six warplanes were scheduled to fly to India on April 28 but the event was advanced by a week as per his visit.
Reportedly, during his France visit, Bhadauria will visit the French Rafale squadron, meet his counterpart Phillippe Lavigne and visit the newly-established Space Command in Paris.
With six new jets, the total number of Omni-role fighters will increase to 20 of the 36 contracted Rafale jets to India. This will enable the air force to complete the 117 Golden Arrows Squadron in Ambala with 18 aircraft and start the second squadron with 2 fourth-generation-plus fighter jets.
“The six fighters will fly to Ambala air base, from where the fighters will be repurposed for the formation of a second squadron at Hasimara, “ a senior air force officer told HT.
With the formation of a second Rafale squadron at Hasimara and with the Hercules C-130 J airlift squadron based in Panagarh, India’s aerial capability will grow massively. Given the location of both the squadrons on the gates of Siliguri corridor, the IAF will have the power to counter any offensive from the north in the eastern sector, particularly in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
As per Dassault Aviation officials, another batch of four Rafale jets will fly to India in May. The aviation giant has already handed over seven more Rafale fighters that are used for training IAF officers in France. And by May-end, only five more fighters are to be handed over by Dassault to complete the full package of 36 aircrafts.
In 2016, India and France inked the deal for the 36 aircraft. The deal has also resulted in deepening bilateral ties including defence cooperation. Indian officials said the two countries have decided that future military hardware purchases would also be finalised on a government-to-government basis to keep out middlemen and lobbyists.
On May 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to travel to France after wrapping up the India-European Union Summit in Portugal, HT reported.