The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to receive three more French-made Dassault Rafale fighters next week and another nine by mid-April, according to reports. The combat aircraft will land at the Ambala airbase in the northern state of Punjab.
Ambala is one of the strategic airbases close to the India-China border (LAC), which had witnessed a 10-month-long military standoff between the two Asian neighbors.
According to Hindustan Times, the IAF would receive three Rafales in fly-away condition early next week as part of the contract for 36 aircraft with France, inked during PM Narendra Modi’s Paris visit in April 2015.
The Hasimara Air Force base in north Bengal will start operations with five Rafales from next month. Earlier, the airbase, which is close to the LAC in the east, housed a squadron of the MiG-27 ground-attack aircraft, which were subsequently phased out from service last year.
Since late 2020, the IAF started fielding Rafales with the No. 101 Squadron (Falcons) at Hasimara, the unit resurrected after its MiG-21M were retired.
The HT report said that an IAF team has already reached Merignac Air Force Base in Bordeaux, France, to bring home the Rafales. In the earlier deliveries, the aircraft flew non-stop from France using mid-air refueling.
The first batch of 5 Rafales arrived in India on July 27, 2020, amid its military confrontation with the Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh. The country also lost 20 of its soldiers in a clash with the Chinese troops last June.
The second delivery of 3 Rafale jets was made on November 4, during which the aircraft flew non-stop from France in an 8-hour flight requiring multiple mid-air refuels. The third delivery was made on January 27, 2021.