The first batch of Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force is likely to get delayed by around three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as France battles rising infections, deaths, and lockdowns, reports The Hindu.
“Taking in the delay due to the lockdown in France, followed by restrictions on flights and personnel coming from Europe imposed by India, we could be looking at July[for the arrival of the aircraft],” the source stated in an interview with The Hindu. The Rafale jets which were expected to be here by may 2020 will now be delayed because of an unclear timeframe.
In October 2019, Indian defense Minister — Rajnath Singh and French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly held the second ministerial-level Annual Defence Dialogue between the two countries in Paris after France formally handed over the first Rafale fighter jet to India.
During the dialogue, the Defence Ministry had stated: “French side has agreed to consider the Indian request for 8-10 Meteor missiles to be given to India by 2020 with the first four aircraft”.
Three Rafale aircraft have been handed over to the IAF according to a written reply to the parliament by Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik in November. A total of 24 IAF pilots along with engineers and technicians were scheduled to be trained on the Indian jets in France. Three IAF pilots and two technical officers were trained earlier on French Air Force (FAF) Rafales as per the terms of the contract.
India has signed a deal with France to acquire 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in September 2016.
As per the agreement, deliveries begin 36 months from the signing of the contract and will be executed in 67 months. The IAF had resurrected the 17 Squadron ‘Golden arrows’ at Air Force station Ambala which will operate the first Rafale squadron while the second squadron would be based at Hasimara in West Bengal, last September.
Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, after the Indian Air Force pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, Indian PM Narendra Modi had stated — “Rafale fighters could have delivered even better results”. His reference was apparently to the stealth of Rafale. Since India was waiting for deliveries of Rafale when the attacks happened, the Indian Air Force deployed a dozen Mirage-2000 aircraft, made by the same company to hit the targets.