The Indian Air Force (IAF) will formally receive the first of its 36 ordered Rafale multi-role fighters in Paris on October 8, the foundation day of the IAF.
Previously, the official handover was expected to happen on September 20. It will mark the first new fighter induction into the Air Force since the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas was received in 2016.
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.
”Defense minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to go to France for the handing over ceremony,” 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 fighters will be fitted with the 150-km range Meteor missile Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVRM) providing a no-escape zone three times greater than that of an AMRAAM missile.
The jets will be flown by Indian pilots in France for at least 1,500 hours as part of the testing and acceptance process. The aircrews 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.