Away from the political slugfest, the Indian Air Force is planning to deploy Rafale fighter jets at strategic air bases near Pakistan and China, News Nation has learnt. As part of change in the current structure, the Indian Air Force will deploy Rafale squadrons at Haryana’s Ambala and West Bengal’s Hashimpura bases respectively. At present, the number 3 ‘Cobra’ squadron of MiG-21 Bison fighter jets has been deployed in Ambala since 1997. But with Rafale taking over the fighter base in next two years, the ‘Cobra’ squadron will be shifted to Rajasthan’s Nal air base.
The air force has almost completed the shifting process soon Ambala skies won’t see the famous MiG-21 fighter jets. The air force has also confirmed the development.
"The first Rafale would be handed over to the Indian Air Force in September 2019 but it would be required to undergo intensive 1,500 hours of testing to validate the India Specific Enhancements on it. So, the first batch of the four Rafale fighter planes would arrive at Ambala around May 2020," senior air force officials were quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
After India signed the multi-billion fighter jet deal, the Indian Air Force has been planning to replace the aging fighter jets. The strategic deployment will help India in protecting her Western and Eastern front. With Pakistan in the West and China in the East, the Rafale deployment will help India in achieving a formidable position. To protect its skies, India has so far been relying on the Sukhoi-30MKIs. However, the Indian Air Force regards Rafale higher than the current lot of fighter jets.
Defence experts have highlighted the worrying trend of depleting squadrons. The air force has seen a steady decline in its fighter squadrons. With two more squadrons due to be phased out by March this year, the strength will be down to just 29 as against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
In a related development, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been given the nod to manufacture weaponised version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas for the Indian Air Force and the first such aircraft is expected to be out by the year-end, according to a company spokesperson. The Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) has given the green signal to start manufacturing of Tejas Mk1 under Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration, he said. "The actual final operational clearance, however, will take place only after extensive tests and trial," the HAL spokesperson was quoted as saying by the PTI.
To get the final operational clearance, the aircraft must have battle-time capabilities of mid-air refuelling, AESA radar, electronic warfare suites, a variety of bombs and weapons, among others, he said. The CEMILAC had accepted the design documents submitted by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which had designed and developed Tejas, he added.
(With agency inputs)