According to a recently published report by the Indian Defence Research Wing, India will sign an agreement for 36 more Dassault Rafale jet fighters in 2020 — a move that was first reported in 2017 and attributed to rising tensions with China, AINonline reported.
The Indian Air Force has recently been handed over its first Rafale Fighter Jet Tail Number “RB-001” In France. The official handing over will take place on October 8 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be visiting France.
The purchase of another 36 Rafale fighter jets will take the fleet to 72, which will be key to bolster India’s air power, particularly in the aftermath of the Balakot strike, when the IAF went deep inside Pakistan to destroy terror training camps. Ever since, both India and Pakistan have been keen to bolster their air power.
An order for a second batch of Rafales would likely spell the end of US efforts to sell Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets or Lockheed Martin F-16 Vipers to India and could help Dassault to win a place on the team developing India’s new fifth-generation AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft), the report said.
The Rafale was selected in 2011, beating the rival Eurofighter Typhoon on cost grounds, but after cost increases, delays, and a disagreement as to the liability for 108 Indian-assembled aircraft, the requirement for 126 aircraft was officially withdrawn.
In its place, India signed a €7.8 billion contract on September 23, 2016, for just 36 French-built Rafales. The order was for 28 Rafale EH single-seaters and eight Rafale DH two-seat dual-control trainers.
Delivery of the aircraft was to be completed in 67 months from the date the contract was signed, beginning in September 2019 and ending in April 2022, the report said.
The aircraft for the Indian Air Force (Bharatiya Vayu Sena, BVS) incorporate a range of India-specific enhancements, including a new weather mapping mode for the RBE-2 AESA radar, an uprated onboard oxygen generating system, modifications to the Sigma 95N IN/GPS to allow it to use India’s NAVIC IRNSS GPS satellites, and starter modifications for improved operation at high-altitude airfields.
The Rafale DH and EH also have provision for the Elbit Targo-II helmet-mounted display system, the Rafael Litening G4 targeting pod, Rafael X-Guard towed radar decoys, a Rafael standby radar altimeter, an upgraded Spectra electronic warfare system, a new Thales TCAS, and quadruple launchers for the SPICE 250-based DEW EMP weapons being jointly developed by India and Israel.
There is provision for a range of weapons in India’s inventory, including the BrahMos-NG supersonic cruise missile, the report said.
Only one Rafale will be delivered with all of these enhancements, the remainder having them incorporated in-country. It will be used for flight testing and certification of the additions, which are expected to be available from September 2022.
The first Rafale DH for the Indian Air Force made its first flight at Bordeaux-Merignac on July 17, 2019. An official, formal handover ceremony is planned for October 8, when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be visiting France.
The first batch of 18 Rafales will be delivered to No. 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows,” based at AFS Ambala, in Haryana state. The second batch will equip No. 1 Squadron “Tigers” at AFS Hashimara in West Bengal.