Amid ongoing controversy over Rafale fighter plane deal, the Indian Air Force has said that the combat jet programme is ‘on schedule’ and that the first aircraft will be delivered in September later this year. “The delivery will take place in France and the aircraft would be brought back to India,” an air force official was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. Earlier report suggest that the Indian Air Force plans to deploy Rafale fighter jets at strategic air bases near Pakistan and China.
As part of change in the current structure, the Indian Air Force will deploy Rafale squadrons at Haryana’s Ambala and West Bengal’s Hashimpura bases respectively. At present, the number 3 ‘Cobra’ squadron of MiG-21 Bison fighter jets has been deployed in Ambala since 1997. But with Rafale taking over the fighter base in next two years, the ‘Cobra’ squadron will be shifted to Rajasthan’s Nal air base. The air force has almost completed the shifting process soon Ambala skies won’t see the famous MiG-21 fighter jets. The air force has also confirmed the development.
After India signed the multi-billion fighter jet deal, the Indian Air Force has been planning to replace the aging fighter jets. The strategic deployment will help India in protecting her Western and Eastern front. With Pakistan in the West and China in the East, the Rafale deployment will help India in achieving a formidable position. To protect its skies, India has so far been relying on the Sukhoi-30MKIs. However, the Indian Air Force regards Rafale higher than the current lot of fighter jets.
Defence experts have highlighted the worrying trend of depleting squadrons. The air force has seen a steady decline in its fighter squadrons. With two more squadrons due to be phased out by March this year, the strength will be down to just 29 as against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.