The Indian Air Force (IAF) will formally receive the first of its 36 ordered Rafale multi-role fighters in France on September 20.
In September 2016, India signed a Euro 7.87 billion (INR 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of Rafale aircraft. Heavily customised for India, it will get 14 India-specific enhancements.
"In presence of the IAF Chief BS Dhanoa, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will accept the aircraft in presence of various defence and civilian bureaucrats there," IAF sources were quoted as saying by the Indian media.
The first batch of four jets armed with SCALP missiles with over 300km range could be ferried to India by May 2020. 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-origin fighters 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 received extensive exposure to Rafale characteristics at bilateral air combat drills.
Ambala (Haryana state) and Hashimara (West Bengal state) air force stations are likely to house a squadron each of the Rafale bcombat jets after final delivery.
France has also guaranteed 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.