New Delhi, July 29, (dpa/GNA) – The first five of 36 Rafale fighter jets that India ordered in 2016 from France’s Dassault Aviation reached an airbase in northern India on Wednesday.
Their induction comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions with China. The Indian government has asked for a speeding up of deliveries so that they are completed by the end of 2021, not in 2022 as originally scheduled.
« The birds have landed safely in Ambala,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh posted on Twitter, adding that the multi-role Rafales would « revolutionize the capabilities of the IAF [Indian Air Force]. »
Singh said the Rafale’s weapons and electronic warfare capabilities were among the best in the world. « Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country.”
Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria was at the station to receive the aircraft, which would be the first fighter aircraft to join the air force in two decades and will augment an ageing squadron of fighter jets.
India signed an 8.78-billion-dollar deal with France’s Dassault Aviation in 2016 for the 36 Rafale aircraft in ready-to-fly condition.
India faces tensions along its northern borders with Pakistan and China.
While Pakistani and Indian troops routinely exchange fire along a disputed border in Kashmir, friction with China about disputed Himalayan territory in eastern Ladakh region led to hand-to-hand combat between their soldiers on June 15 and the death of 20 Indian troopers.
The two sides are currently engaged in a dialogue to resolve the stand-off.