India is likely to receive by July 27 the first batch of six Rafale fighter jets which are expected to significantly boost the combat capability of the Indian Air Force, people familiar with the development said.
The IAF has been on a high alert for the last two weeks in view of escalation in tension with China following clashes between troops of the two countries in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The two armies are locked in a bitter standoff in the region for seven weeks.
On June 2, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a telephonic conversation with his French counterpart Florence Parly during which she conveyed that the Rafale jets will be delivered to India as scheduled notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic in France.
Military officials, on the condition of anonymity, said the arrival of the Rafale jets will significantly enhance the IAF's overall combat capability and will send a clear message to India's "adversaries".
When asked about the matter, the IAF did not comment.
The first squadron of the aircraft will be stationed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets
Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come 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
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal. The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases
Out of the 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.
The Congress had raised questions on the deal, including on rates of the aircraft, and alleged corruption, but the government had rejected the charges.