Sixteen more Rafale fighter jets will be inducted into the Indian Air Force’s ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron by April next year, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday.
Significantly, France’s biggest engine maker Safran is also said to have expressed its desire to manufacture fighter engines and ancillary parts in India, the Indian daily Hindustan Times quoted officials as saying.
Developed by Safran, the Snecma M88 engines could be used to power not only Rafale fighters but also Light Combat Aircraft Mark II and twin-engine advanced multi-role combat aircraft, developed by India’s federal Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will reportedly meet delegates from Safran when he kicks off his three-nation tour to France, Germany and the United Kingdom on Thursday.
Only Russia, France, and the US have the capability to manufacture fighter jet engines. Even China uses Russia-built RD-93 and RD-33 engines to power its JF-17 and JF-31 jets.
According to the Indian daily, three Rafale jets will arrive at the Ambala air base from France’s Bordeaux-Merignac facility on 5 November. Three Rafale more Rafale jets will fly to India in January next year, with another three slated to arrive on the subcontinent in March. Seven more Rafale fighter jets will additionally arrive in April.
Currently, Indian pilots are already training with seven Rafale jets in France.
The report noted that with the induction of these fighter jets by April, the Ambala-based 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron will be completed.
Twenty-one of the jets reportedly received by India till April will be twin-seater, while will be single-seaters. All jets will be equipped with Mica and Meteor air-to-air missiles along with Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles, the report said.
Ambala city in Haryana state is strategically located, 200 kilometres from the national capital city of New Delhi and close to the de-facto border with Pakistan. Indian fighter pilots have also been carrying out sorties in Rafale jets at the China border in eastern Ladakh, with Ambala as the starting point.
The report said the Rafale jets received after April will be stationed at Hashimara air base, located in West Bengal state. In September, the IAF inducted its first set of five Rafale jets in a high-profile ceremony at an airbase in Ambala. Overall, the South Asian country has ordered 36 French-made jets at a cost of $8.7 billion.