New Delhi (Sputnik) – Perceiving threat from nuclear rivals China & Pakistan, Indian Air Force is engaged in giving the final shape to the air bases for French fighter jet Rafale, to be inducted into service by in 2019.
The bases selected are within the striking range of both the neighbors. Defense sources told Sputnik that first squadron of Dassault Aviation’s Rafale will be stationed at IAF’s Ambala base in the western state of Punjab while the second squadron would be based at Hasimara base in the eastern state of West Bengal.China is less than 100 kilometers from Hasimara while Indian Air Force can hit other parts of Southern Tibet through Bhutan Airspace within four minutes. One squadron of Rafale will consist of 18 fighter jets. Indian Air Force had contracted with French manufacturer Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale at cost of 7.8 billion Euros last year.
“French manufacturer & Indian teams had visited the air bases a few days back and are giving final shape to the requirements including hangars. All facilities for the Rafale squadron will be ready by end of the year,” defense sources said. Dassault Aviation will start providing training to Indian Air Force pilots and technicians very soon.
The Indian government has allocated approximately $35 million for hangars, maintenance facilities and other requirements for Rafale at the air bases.
Initially, India had canceled a 126 fighter jet tender in which the French manufacturer had emerged as a winner. It later awarded a contract for supplying 36 planes in fly-away condition to the same company, Dassault Aviation. The terms of the procurement include five years of performance-based logistics (PBL) with options for additional seven-year extension. The terms also provide for 50 years’ product support by the manufacturer. Under the contract, Dassault will make India-specific changes to the aircraft and mount different types of missiles: beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air Meteor, short and medium-range air-to-air MICA and precision-guided air-to-ground SCALP missiles.
Indian Air Force is in dire need of additional fighter jets as depleting squadron of aging fighter jets like MiG 21 & MiG 27 are making it difficult to distribute required assets at two different fronts of China & Pakistan. Presently, IAF has only 33 squadrons (each consists of 18-20) of fighter jets out of which two-thirds are of Russian origin.