The stage is set for Indian Air Force (IAF) to receive last four Rafale fighters from France from February with all of them fully equipped with India specific enhancements, which will give extra teeth to fight any regional adversary.
It is understood that three Rafale fighters are expected to leave Istres-Le Tube air base, north-west of Marseille in south France, around February 1-2 depending on the weather conditions and arrive in India after due mid-air refueling by close ally, the United Arab Emirates Air Force, using Airbus multi-role transport tankers.
While the last fighter is nearly ready with fresh paint and enhancements, the fighter for reasons best known to IAF will arrive only in April, 2022. The last of the 36 contracted fighters from France is actually the first fighter used for training IAF personnel after the deliveries started from France. This fighter was inspected by Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar at the Istres air base during his visit to France for a high level defence dialogue in December 2021.
Although IAF remains tight-lipped over what India specific enhancements are on Rafale, it is learnt that these relate to long range Meteor air-to-air missile, low band frequency jammers, advanced communication systems, more capable radio altimeter, radar warning receiver, high altitude engine start up, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator and tracking, missile approach warning systems and very high frequency range decoys.
On the arrival of the fighter jets, the IAF will test the specific enhancements to their satisfaction under Indian conditions apart from verifying the original equipment manufacturers claims as per agreement. After this, work will begin in retrofitting the remaining 32 aircraft at Ambala in western sector and Hashimara air base in eastern sector with the India specific enhancements with all the related equipment already with the IAF. The upgradation exercise will be carried out at Ambala air base which has the maintenance cum repair set up for Rafale fighters in India.