Indian Rafale officially in service. Will India order more from the same fighters?
NEW DELHI, (BM) – In India, there was a ceremony to introduce the first five Rafale aircraft to the Indian Air Force, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Polish media agency Defence24. The presence of the French defense minister in the ceremony could signal talks aimed at increasing the order, which so far includes a target of 36 fighters.
The formal introduction ceremony of the first five Rafale aircraft into the Indian Air Force was held on September 10, 2020 at the Indian Ambala Air Force Base in Harayana. India has thus become the fourth country in the world [after France, Egypt and Qatar] to use these French fighters. Despite the COVID-19 epidemic, the ceremony was attended by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of General Staff General Bipin Rawat, and French Defense Minister Florence Parly.
The event was thus given a high propaganda rank, as evidenced not only by the number of guests, but also by the venue of the ceremony. The first French fighters were received by the squadron “Golden Arrows”, which is considered one of the best in the Indian air force. The base of this squadron – Ambala, which is located only 220 km from Pakistan, was selected as the base for Rafale.
It was from here that the Indian Mirage fighters for the air raid on Balakot in Pakistan took off on February 26, 2019, in retaliation for the terrorist attack in Pulwama district, which killed 40 police and security personnel.
The presence of the French defense minister is not accidental. In this way, France is most likely trying to side with India and tightening strategic economic, political and military cooperation. The plan of Minister Parly’s visit therefore includes bilateral talks with the Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, as well as with Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor.
This rapprochement between France and India probably also has deep economic overtones. The Indian air force has ordered “only” 36 Rafale planes for around EUR 3.42 billion with a delivery date in 2019-2025. Everyone remembers, however, that in the initial phase of the negotiations, 126 such fighters were mentioned [of which 18 were to be built in France and 108 were to be assembled in India] with the option of extending the order by 74 additional planes.
It is very likely that the French now want to return to these talks, taking advantage of India’s long-standing border conflict with neighboring Pakistan and a four-month border stalemate with China.
So far, the Indian air force has picked up five Rafale planes in the country, which arrived from France on July 29 this year. In fact, the Indian Air Force has already received ten such fighters. However, five of them were left in France and they are the ones where Indian pilots are trained. A batch of another four to five Rafale is likely to reach India in November 2020. The delivery of all 36 aircraft is to be completed by the end of 2021.
The French now hope that the confrontation of their latest jets with the Su-30MKI planes brought to India more than twenty years ago from Russia will show the superiority of their solutions and encourage the Indians to increase the order. An advantage in the negotiations for Minister Florence Parly may be, above all, access to the most modern precision armament, which is offered for Rafale aircraft primarily by MBDA.
It is assumed that the table may even include a proposal to sell the Scalp air maneuvering missiles, which are also included in the standard package of the French aircraft.
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