The 36 Rafale fighter jets, which India contracted for in a deal with France in 2016 at the cost of nearly Rs 58,000 crore, will start arriving in the country in September 2019. With just one year remaining, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been quietly preparing to welcome the new fighter jets.
According to The Hindu, the IAF has been readying the infrastructure required for the new fleet. Air Force stations in Haryana’s Ambala and West Bengal’s Hasimara will house a squadron (18 planes) each of Rafale fighters. The first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala, a strategically located bases of the IAF nearly 220 km from the border with Pakistan. The base is also home to India’s Jaguar fighter-bomber fleet. To house Rafales at the base, the IAF is constructing hangers, hardened concrete shelters and maintenance facilities at these bases. The government has sanctioned Rs 400 crore for this purpose.
A new building is coming up at the Ambala air base, which will house the training simulators built by French firm Sogitec, Livefist had reported earlier.
The IAF has dispatched a six-member hand-picked team to France to train on Rafale fighter planes, Hindustan Times has reported. The team, which left for France on Sunday, has a fighter pilot, an engineer and four technicians. It will receive training at the Saint-Dizier air base in eastern France. According to an official quoted by the daily, the IAF will send multiple teams for training. These teams will be responsible for flying the aircraft back home, the official said.
Last week, three Rafale fighters of the French Air Force (FAF) made a stopover at the Gwalior Air Force Base, home to India’s Mirage-2000 fleet, on their way back to Europe after participating in Exercise Pitch Black in Australia. During the exchange program, FAF pilots flew India’s upgraded Mirage-2000 aircraft and IAF pilots took Armée de l'Air Française Rafales for a spin, reports have said.
Reports say Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale, has started test flight of the fighters to be supplied to India. The company has been asked to strictly adhere to the timeline. All 36 fighters will arrive by September 2022.
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