The current purchase of 36 more Rafale fighter jets will take India’s fleet to 72. (PTI File Photo)
Doing away with the controversies that loomed large over the previous deal, the Narendra Modi government finalised a deal for another 36 Rafale Jets from France, according to media reports. An Indian Defence Research Wing Report, published on Saturday, hints towards the new order to be inked in early 2020. The current purchase of 36 more Rafale fighter jets will take India’s fleet to 72, which will bolster India's air power. India had ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore on September 23, 2016. The mega defence deal was at the centre of massive political controversy with the Congress and the other opposition parties alleging corruption by the Modi government in the deal.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa recently resurrected the 17 squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station which will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets. The 'Golden Arrows' 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999.
The Indian Air Force is looking forward to Rafale jets as they would help in plugging the fleet crunch. Experts say that the IAF has just 31 fighter squadrons as opposed to the required strength of 42. Case of two-front battle will be a Herculean task for India in current scenario.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft. The sources said the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at the Ambala Air Force Station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there.
Recently, the Indian Air Force (IAF) received its first ‘acceptance’ Rafale combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation in France. Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who is set to become next Indian Air Force chief, was instrumental in steering the Rafale jet deal between India and France. He was among the first officials to fly the French aircraft. The Rafale jets have been designed with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.