India will receive another 8 to 9 Rafale jets from France by mid-May, with some expected later this month, completing the first squadron of the fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to a defence official.
“The number of jets that will arrive in India by month end is being finalised. In all around 8-9 jets are expected by mid-May,” the official said.
With the inductions this month set to complete the first squadron, which currently has 14 jets, the IAF is all set to operationalise the second Rafale squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal later this month.
Last September, the IAF inducted the batch of five Rafales of 36 jets contracted from France under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in September 2016 with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE).
The first batch of five Rafale jets, three single seat and two twin seater trainers, were formally inducted into No.17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the IAF last September at Ambala Air Force station. They arrived in India in July 2020 with a stopover at Al Dhafra airbase in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
During the first leg of the flight from Merignac airbase at Bordeaux in France to the UAE, the jets were accompanied by French Air Force mid-air refuellers. For the journey from UAE to India they were accompanied by IAF midair refuellers.
The second batch of three Rafales arrived in India last November, also flying non-stop from France with three in-flight refuellings supported by French Air Force mid-air refuelling aircraft. The third batch of three Rafales arrived in India in January. The fourth batch of three jets arrived on March 31 and were refueled in-flight by UAE Air Force tankers.
Last December, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said the Force would get 3 to 4 Rafales every two to three months till all 36 jets are delivered and added that the first squadron would be fully ready by end 2021 and the second squadron by 2023.