NEW DELHI. India›s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will formally receive the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft at a special ceremony in France on 8th October 2019, the day the Indian Air Force (IAF) marks its 87th Anniversary.
Rafale’s induction and operationalisation process will begin thereafter to make it a strategic combat asset. IAF has inducted aircraft in the past from Russia, UK, and France, and procedures are well-tuned. IAF had operated French Dassault fighters Ouragan (Toofani), and the Mystere IVA in its initial years. Inducted in 1985, the Mirage 2000, now under upgrade, still continues to be the cutting-edge fleet of the IAF.
Mirages were the weapon platform of choice in operations in the Kargil War and were modified with Israeli Litening pods for laser guidance of dumb iron bombs to hit Pakistani soldiers occupying Kargil heights in the 1999 War, and used again in 2019 in the recent Balakot strike to neutralise terrorist camps run by the Pakistani army.
The 36 aircraft, €7.87 billion (Rs 58,891 crore) Rafale contract will give IAF 28 single-seat, and 8 twin-seat aircraft. The deal also includes tailor-made IAF specific enhancements (ISEs) including the integration of an Israeli helmet-mounted display (HMD), radar warning receivers and low-band jammers. It includes a weapons package and a performance-based logistics agreement. The weapons include MICA and Meteor Beyond Visual Range Airto-Air Missiles (BVRAAM) and SCALP air-to-ground cruise missiles. The Indian Rafale will be a modified version of the F3R standard for missile applications.
The delivery of the jets is to be completed in 67 months of contract signing, by 2022.
THE PROJECT TEAM
As is traditional, a project monitoring team, called the Rafale Project Team (RFT) has been in place in France since 2017. The team is collocated and is working closely with Dassault Aviation at its Saint-Cloud complex in Paris. RPT is responsible for monitoring contract execution and acting as an interface between India and France.
Acceptance of an aircraft from the manufacturer involves physical checks of ‘Standard of Preparation’, which includes check of all systems onboard, and supporting certification and maintenance documents. The aircraft is then subjected to a few flight tests. An Indian team of flight test pilots and engineers has been positioned in France for this purpose.
TRAINING IN FRANCE
The specially selected personnel who train in France will later become the nucleus for training others in flying training for IAF pilots and technical training for engineers and technicians. The flying training is planned at Mont-de-Marsan air base in South West France. Flying training for the IAF Mirage 2000 pilots was also done there. Normally, there should be 2 or 3 batches of Indian pilots to get training in France. These pilots will later fly the aircraft to India around April 2020, and train other pilots in India.
A much larger number of engineers and technicians are also already in France, and some of them will specialise in different systems of the aircraft.
FERRY TO INDIA
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