India is set to receive six fully loaded Rafale fighter aircraft with the long-range Meteor air-to-air missiles, amid the ongoing border disputes with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.
The Rafales have a strike range capacity of 150km and are expected to be delivered by July this year.
Once delivered, the aircraft will enhance the air strike capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF), providing an edge over the Chinese Air Force.
Undisclosed government sources told ANI: “Depending upon the situation and the ongoing training of IAF pilots in France, we may get six Rafales by July-end.
“The aircraft will be arriving with their full package and will be made operational within few days itself.”
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In September 2016, India signed a contract with France for 36 Rafales for the IAF. The jets are expected to be delivered by April 2022.
Originally, the airforce had scheduled the delivery of four Rafales, including three twin-seater trainer versions.
The aircraft will train the pilots at Ambala Air Force station, making it the first base of the Rafale fighter jets in the country.
According to the sources, the second base was expected to be in Hashimara, West Bengal.
However, the number of aircraft to be delivered may differ according to requirements, including the training requirements of the pilots already stationed in France.
Currently, the IAF is overlooking the development of ground infrastructure of the aircraft. The date of arrival of the aircraft remains undecided.
The first aircraft is planned to be piloted by the Commanding Officer of the 17 Golden Arrows’ squadron along with a French pilot.
The aircraft will be transferred from France to India. Before landing, it will undergo refuelling by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air.