The last batch of three Rafale fighter jets are scheduled to arrive in India next week while work on upgrading all the Rafale jets in service to the Indian standard configuration with the 13 India specific enhancements (ISE) is currently underway in India, according to defence officials.
This would leave one jet in France, though already delivered to the IAF, the instrumented aircraft RB008 on which the ISE were incorporated and certified.
“IAF has taken delivery of the jets in France and the modalities of their ferry to India are being worked out and should be arriving in India by the middle of next week,” a defence official said on the condition of anonymity.
Like in earlier instances, the jets would fly directly from France with in-flight refuelling during the journey which in the past was supported by the Air Forces of France and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“All ISE have been qualified and certified. ISE incorporation is underway on all aircraft at the moment,” another official said adding it is proceeding at a fast pace.
The first Rafale for India, RB008, had made its maiden flight on October 30, 2018 in France. It was on this aircraft that the 13 ISE have been incorporated, tested and certified. RB stands for former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria who as then Deputy Chief of IAF led the Indian negotiation team and had a major role in the contract negotiations.
The Indian standard jets are the most advanced among all Rafale aircraft across the world, officials noted.
As reported by The Hindu earlier, the ISE are not present in the Rafale aircraft being operated by other countries and pertain to radar enhancements, helmet-mounted display, ability to start and operate from high-altitude airfields, advanced infrared search and track sensor, a potent electronic jammer pod and avionics.
While some of the ISE were incorporated during the manufacturing of the aircraft, the remaining are being incorporated now post their certification which includes both hardware and software upgrades.
In September 2020, the IAF inducted the first batch of five Rafale jets into the No.17 Golden Arrows squadron based at Ambala and the second squadron based at Hasimara in West Bengal was operationalised last July. The jets were earlier handed over to India in France in October 2019 but were used for training IAF pilots there.
India and France signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) in September 2016 for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition following the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.