India welcomes new Rafale fighter jets amid border tension with China

India welcomed five new Rafale fighter jets amid escalating tensions with China since May 2020.

The aircraft are part of India’s deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 warplanes.

India hopes to modernise its dwindling Soviet-era air force fleet with the induction of Rafale multi-role jets.

However, it would take months before its used in case of a conflict. Like for example training technical and ground staff in India, setting up logical chain.

The Rafale squadron will be fully operational when it has at least 18 aircraft. The delivery of the remaining Rafale aircraft is expected to be completed by next year.

The jets, manufactured by French firm Dassault Aviation, took off from France on Monday and landed in the UAE for an overnight stopover. The journey showcased the aircraft’s endurance and mid-air fuelling capability.

The Rafale is a multi-role aircraft, capable of carrying out long-range missions, including highly accurate sea and ground attacks.

Analysts say the arrival of the jets will boost the morale of the air force, which has been facing a shortage of fighter aircraft.

India needs 42 squadrons in the scenario of a two-front war with China and Pakistan. But its squadron strength has been depleted to 31, largely because of ageing Russian aircraft.

The acquisition of the fighter jets began in 2000 under then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. In 2004 governments changed. Tenders were issued to buy 126 jets in 2008.

Dassault was finalised as a supplier in 2012, and the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was selected as partner to produce 108 jets in India

But the deal stalled until Narendra Modi was elected to power in 2014. He made procurement of jets a priority but changed the deal completely, ordering 36 jets in “fly-away” condition.

India still requires 110 fighter jets and the deal needs to be finalised.