IAF chief likely to flag off six fighter jets from France during his visit beginning April 20
The Indian Air Force is set to activate its second squadron of Rafale, at Hasimara, West Bengal, as Chief of the Air Staff RKS Bhadauria begins a four-day visit to France beginning April 20.
Media reports said Bhadauria will flag off six Rafale jets on April 21.
With the arrival of the six Rafales in India, their number will to rise to 20. India had contracted 36 of the fighter jets with France’s manufacturer Dassault in a deal worth ₹59,000 crore. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first announced the off-the-shelf deal for these jets in 2015. The first batch of five Rafales arrived in India on July 29, 2020.
The latest addition will enable the IAF to complete the 117 Golden Arrows Squadron in Ambala with 18 aircraft and start the second squadron with two fighter jets.
Also read: Supreme Court to hear fresh PIL on ‘kickbacks’ in Rafale deal
The IAF chief’s visit comes days after a French publication, Mediapart, reported a “scandal” linked to the sale of the fighter jets from Dassault. In a three-part report published on its website, Mediapart claimed that Dassault Aviation and French defence electronics firm Thales paid millions of euros to Sushen Gupta, an Indian middleman, to influence the deal.
Also read: Explainer: The ‘scandal’ surrounding India’s Rafale deal with France
Rafale, literally meaning ‘gust of wind’, is a twin-engine, canard delta-wing, multirole fighter aircraft. It is equipped with a wide range of weapons. The fighter is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. It is also referred to as an ‘omnirole’ aircraft manufactured by Dassault.
The formation of a second Rafale squadron at Hasimara will add punch to India’s air power heavy-lift with C-130 J airlift squadron based in Panagarh in northern West Bengal. The IAF will have the power to counter any offensive from the north in the eastern sector.