Monday, January 18, 2021

More Rafales On The Way: Amid China Tensions, India Aims For Complete Air Dominance With 2nd Batch Of Rafale Jets

As the new Rafale jets make a wild card appearance over the skies of Ladakh, more of these advanced 4.5 generation birds are set to arrive in October/November 2020. Of the total order of 36 aircraft, the first five made the touchdown in IAF’s Ambala Airbase on 29th July.

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Reportedly, the new batch will contain 4 aircraft and similar to the July arrivals, would land at Ambala. Reports suggest that the next set of Rafale fighters would arrive in October. “The next set of fighters, which are likely to be four in number, will arrive in the country in October,” ThePrint quoted its sources.

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However, much more interestingly, new reports from PTI indicate that the Golden Arrows squadron operating the Rafales will also see the joining of a woman fighter pilot soon.

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The pilot is currently undergoing training to fly the newest bird in the fleet. The identity of the pilot has not been disclosed due to security reasons.

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PTI has also revealed that the woman pilot has been flying the Russian-origin MiG-21 Bison jets and was selected for the Rafale fleet following an internal selection process. Currently, the IAF has 10 women serving as fighter pilots and 18 navigators, bringing a total of serving officers in the force to 1,875.

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Rafale Jets

A total of 10 Rafale aircraft have been delivered to India, of which 5 stayed back in France to train Indian pilots. In India, the combat testing and “familiarisation” sorties of the plane is going in full swing, with the pilots regularly flying and developing own tactics according to the Indian environmental scenario.

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The prime example was when Rafales were seen flying over Ladakh, the current hotbed of a possible conflict with China.

The Rafale jets bridge a critical technology gap in the IAF, bringing the much-needed beyond visual range (BVR) air to air missiles in the Indian armoury, a serious vacuum that hampered its capabilities to harness the full potential of its fighter jets.

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This was highlighted during the February 2019 engagement with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) when the rival F-16s could fire the AIM-120 AMRAAMs on the Su-30MKIs and MiG-21s from a distance, while the Su-30s could do nothing but use their superior electronic warfare and jamming pods to evade the missiles.

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While the arrival of Rafales armed with high-tech weaponry and avionics has up-gunned the fighting capabilities of the Indian Air Force against its arch-rivals such as the PLAAF or the PAF, the first threats, ironically, have come via natural means – bird strikes at the Ambala airbase.

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