Indian army takes possession of its first Rafale


“Fast, agile, versatile and very deadly. “ It is through this warlike semantics that Jawed Ashraf, who has just taken office as India’s new ambassador to France, greeted the Rafale, five copies of which took off on the morning of Monday July 27 from Bordeaux Mérignac airport. , bound for India. Released in recent months from Dassault Aviation channels, the aircraft in question are the first of 36 ordered from France by the Indian Air Force in September 2016 for 590 billion rupees (8 billion euros at the exchange rate of the time).

The keys to the first of them had been handed over to the Indian Minister of Defense, Rajnath Singh, in October 2019, and since then, it has been necessary to train in France Indian pilots and mechanics in the extremely specialized use of these planes full of electronic. Deliveries should have started slowly from April but the Covid-19 epidemic and the respective containment of the two countries resulted in a postponement of the initial schedule.

Accelerate the pace

Meanwhile, a border dispute has erupted in the Himalayas between China and India. The Indian army accuses the People’s Liberation Army of encroaching on its territory in April and, after two hand-to-hand clashes between soldiers from the two nuclear powers in Asia, one on May 6 , the other on June 15, it asked Dassault Aviation to speed up the delivery rate of its Rafales.

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The five copies on the way to the subcontinent, some two-seaters, other single-seaters, must cover about 7,000 kilometers. A distance that required, during its first half, several in-flight refueling with the support of the French Air Force, until the stopover at the Al Dhafra air base in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where the five planes landed at the end of the day on Monday. The ferry operation will end with the second part of the trip on Wednesday, July 29, to the Indian state of Haryana, based on Ambala, near Chandigarh.

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In the long term, 18 Rafale will be posted there under the name of Golden Arrows (“golden arrows”), in reference to the mythical squadron of Mig-21 which distinguished itself in 1999 during Kargil’s lightning war against Pakistan, in Kashmir. The other 18 will be based in Hasimara, near Bhutan. The Indian Air Force has already taken possession of the next five Rafale, in Mérignac, and the entire order placed with Dassault Aviation should have been delivered by the end of the year. 2021, instead of the spring 2022 initially planned.

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