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J.C Menon

France says it will deliver all 36 RAFALE aircraft it is contracted to supply to India by May 2022, and arrangements are being made for ferrying the first four aircraft to the South Asian nation.

“There will be no delay in [the] delivery of 36 RAFALE jets to India as the timeline finalised for the supply of the fighter jets will be strictly respected,”  French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain says, denying speculation over a delay in the deliveries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the delivery schedule, the first 18 aircraft are supposed to be delivered to the IAF by February 2021, with the rest expected by April-May 2022. So far, four RAFALEs have been handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the aircraft are being used for training IAF pilots and technicians in France.

“We are helping the Indian Air Force in arranging for the ferry flight of their first four RAFALEs from France to India as soon as possible. So there’s no reason today to speculate that the schedule will not be maintained,” the envoy said about plans for them to reach India by the end of July.

India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 RAFALEs at an estimated cost of US$9 billion. The agreement also covers weapon systems for the aircraft, supply of spare parts and maintenance for five years in addition to performance-based logistics. Out of 36 RAFALEs, 30 will be fighters and six will be trainer aircraft with the latter having almost all the features of the former, except being twin seat.

Advanced weapons

MBDA’s METEOR Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) and SCALP cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package.

MBDA’s Corporate Marketing Director, Loic Piedevache said, “India will get new capabilities with RAFALE aircraft which the country [has] never had before. Both SCALP and METEOR missiles will be [a] game changer for [the] IAF.”

METEOR is a next generation BVRAAM developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden while revolutionising air-to-air combat. Guided by an advanced active radar seeker, METEOR provides all-weather capability to engage a wide variety of targets from fast jets to small unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

SCALP is an air-launched, long range, deep strike missile, designed to deal with pre-planned attacks against high value fixed or stationary targets and is used by the UK’s Royal Air Force and the French Air Force. 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.

The IAF has already developed the required infrastructure such as hangars and maintenance facilities at two bases, spending around four billion rupees. MBDA has been supplying range of missiles to the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force in the last five decades.

“Rafale is an amazing aircraft fitted with a very superior weapons package. It has been having great success in several important markets. We are happy to be part of the project to supply 36 RAFALEs to India,” Piedevache added.