An Indian Air Force team, led by a two-star officer, is currently in France to review the progress of the Rafale project even as the second batch of fighters is set to reach their home base in Ambala in the next few weeks, officials familiar with the developments said on Thursday.
The team, headed by assistant chief of air staff (projects), reached France earlier this week for a scheduled review of the project, the officials said.
Five Rafale jets of the 36 ordered by the IAF reached the Ambala airbase on July 29 after a stopover at the Al Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi, although a formal induction ceremony took place later on September 10.
The officials said next batch of three or four Rafale jets is expected to arrive in the next few weeks (the date is being finalised) and will further boost the IAF’s capability to rapidly deploy the advanced jets amid tensions with neighbouring China and Pakistan.
The IAF is expecting three or four Rafale jets to be delivered every two months, with all the planes likely to join the air force’s combat fleet by the year-end.
The Rafale fighters—the first imported jets to be inducted into the IAF in 23 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 jets entered service in June 1997—have significantly enhanced the offensive capabilities of the IAF.
The IAF is operating the Rafale fighter jets in the Ladakh theatre where the military is on high alert to deal with any provocation by China even as military and diplomatic talks have failed to reduce friction in the sensitive Ladakh theatre.