Due to the coronavirus lockdown going on in both France and India, the delivery of the first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft has been delayed by a few weeks now. News agency ANI quoted sources and said apart from the delays in deliveries from France, some preparations are yet to be completed at the Ambala airbase also which is going to house the first squadron of the French-origin fighters.
"At present, the delivery schedule has been pushed back by a few weeks due to the lockdown but arrangements are being made in this regard," reported news agency ANI quoting IAF sources said.
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The aircraft was supposed to reach India by the end of May next month. The final delivery schedule would be known only after the lockdown gets over. The first squadron of Rafales in India would be the 17 Squadron which was earlier commanded by former Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and the tail number of the fighters would also be BS.
The four trainers would come with tail numbers RB in recognition of the important role played by present Air Force Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria in finalising the deal of the planes as head of the contract negotiation committee for buying 36 Rafales for around Rs 60,000 crore.
MoS Defence Shripad Naik on November 20 last year in a written reply in Lok Sabha had informed that 3 Rafale fighter aircraft have been handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF). He had added that the aircrafts were being used for training of IAF pilots and technicians in France. The development came days after the Supreme Court of India dismissed review petitions on Rafale.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles and the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. Earlier, the defence minister also flew a sortie in the MMRCA fighter jet from a French airbase in Paris to gain first-hand experience of the aircraft. The first Rafale had a tail number ‘RB 01', where 'RB' stands for Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, who played an important role in negotiations for procuring 36 Rafale jets in the flyaway condition, reports said.
(with ANI inputs)