The first of French-origin Rafale fighters will be handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a ceremony planned to take place in France in September this year.
The first batch of four jets armed with SCALP missiles having a range of over 300km is expected to be ferried to India by May next year, ET reported Tuesday.
Eighteen Rafale jets will be deployed in Ambala while an equal number of the new generation jet will be stationed in Hasimara.
The Rafale will be flown by Indian pilots in France for at least 1,500 hours as part of the testing and acceptance process. The pilots will initially be given lessons on simulators for the full range of missions planned with the fleet. While Indian teams are already in France to oversee the project, Indian pilots have been getting extensive exposure to Rafale characteristics at bilateral air combat drills.
In September 2016, India signed a Euro 7.87 billion (INR 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale combat aircraft. Heavily customised for India, it will get 14 India-specific enhancements.
The French fighter will be fitted with the 150-km range Meteor missile which is is a Beyond Visual Range missile providing a no-escape zone three times greater than that of a competing missile such as the American AMRAAM missile. The Meteor can hit farther and with greater effectiveness than missiles in the arsenal of Pakistani or Chinese air forces.
The French will also guarantee performance-based logistics support which means that 75 per cent of the fleet will be airworthy at any given time. This is a first ever for India where the air-worthiness is part of the purchase agreement.