India will only get 36 Rafale fighter Jets from France by September 2019 due to India-Specific enhancements. The remaining 35 fighter jets will be delivered to India at the rate of seven aircrafts per month until the end of the contract period in April 2022. Even though this news may not sound very impressive, but India is in dire needs of advanced fighter jets to challenge the dominance of China.
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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the “delivery of 36 Rafale aircraft in a fly-away condition along with associated equipment and weapons will commence from September 2019 and will be completed by April 2022.”
Sources from the government have often insisted that by negotiating a deal where the supply of 36 French jets would be completed by April 2022, it has saved five months off the UPA-era negotiations to meet the urgent operational requirements of the Indian Air Force.
According to the sources, one of the 36 Rafale aircraft to be provided to India had initiated test-flying in France last month. India-Specific Enhancements are being flight-tested on this fighter jet, sources added, which is a two-seater Rafale aircraft.
The testing of this aircraft will continue until April 2022, when it will be fit to be delivered to India, sources said. IAF and French pilots are together engaged in the testing of this aircraft which will lead to certification of India-Specific Enhancements. A team of team of four officers from IAF has been in France since August 2017 for testing India-Specific Enhancements and observing the production of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
“The flight test and certification of the India-Specific Enhancements on one Rafale will be complete within 67 months of the signing of the contract. All the aircraft cannot be equipped with India-Specific Enhancements unless the flight test is complete and the aircraft is certified to the new capabilities. This is the reason the last aircraft to be delivered is the first to be manufactured,” sources told The Indian Express.
“By the time the first Rafale is certified with India-Specific Enhancements, Rafale aircraft would have already been delivered to India. The 35 aircraft would be modified in India in the next five months. This is a simple plug-and-play process,” sources said.
As per the requirements provided by the IAF for the 126-aircraft MMRCA deal during the UPA government, there are 13 India-Specific Enhancements needed by India. These include radar enhancement, Helmet Mounted Display, towed decoy system, Low band jammer, radio altimeter and capacity to begin and operate from High Altitude Airfields.
These additional abilities are not present in Rafale aircraft in service with the French Air Force. When the BJP government signed an inter-government agreement for 36 Rafale aircraft in 2016, it did not make any changes to the list of India-Specific Enhancements.
Four out of the remaining 35 Rafale fighter aircraft will be in the production line at Dassault’s plant in Bordeaux at the beginning of next year.