You know things are heating up in Ladakh when Indian Air Force (IAF) officials go all the way to France to see how their Rafale fighter jet order is going. They need those jets now … not a year from now, not two years from now. Not with a belligerent and unrelenting China on its doorstep

According to a report, IAF bigwigs headed last week to the Dassault Aviation plant near Bordeaux–Mérignac, France to check on the progress of the second batch of jet fighters, which could soon be deployed to guard the country’s north-eastern border with China.

India, which has ordered thirty-six of the twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft, received the first batch on Sept. 10 and immediately deployed those to the contested Ladakh region.

New Delhi has confirmed that the delivery of the second batch of planes could take place in the next few weeks, and the officials were sent to France to ensure that the IAF will be able to ramp up as both India and China continue to build up forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), National Interest reported. 

IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria told reporters that the additional three to four jets could arrive by the end of October or early in November, and added, “This will keep happening every three to four months,” and further indicated that New Delhi might be interested in purchasing more of the aircraft. 

“In terms of whether we go in for more Rafale or multirole fighter aircraft, it will be an open competition, as it is currently planned. We have received the RFI (Request for Information) responses. So this entire subject is under discussion and debate.

“And when this situation and the picture becomes clear and we finalize the way forward, we will share with you,” Bhadauria said.

The entire batch of the original order of the thirty-six aircraft is expected to be operational by early 2023, National Interest reported.

New Delhi has been eager to acquire new fighters to replace the antiquated MiGs, and the Rafales have been seen as the clear cut winner at this point.

France has agreed to equip Indian Rafale fighters with air-to-surface Hammer all-weather smart weapons, apart from air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon.

Meanwhile, four Rafale fighters of the French Air Force will land in India this month to participate in joint exercises with the Indian Air Force’s Golden Arrows Squadron that was resurrected in September, Hindustan Times reported.

The exercises have been scheduled between 19 and 25 January in the skies over the deserts of Rajasthan, people familiar with the matter said.

The French air force’s Rafales will be accompanied by the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft (MRTT) for aerial refuelling support. The four fighters will also participate in joint exercises with the Australian Air Force before reaching India, Hindustan Times reported.

The wargames, named Exercise Skyros, will take place over the air force firing range in Rajasthan’s Pokhran that had seen Indian Air Force fighters participate in Exercise Vayu Shakti.

The 2019 exercise was designed to let the pilots practise and showcase the IAF’s ability to strike targets including radars and enemy convoys on the ground, Hindustan Times reported

The joint exercises are expected to focus on interoperability, low flying over the desert and manoeuvrability of the omni role fighters.

The exercises involving the Rafales — which would be India’s frontline fighter in case of conflict in East Ladakh or elsewhere — are being held weeks after Chinese and Pakistani air force carried out joint exercises near India’s western border.

Make no mistake, China fears the Rafale — it ups the ante considerably when it comes to weapons and capability. This is EU defence technology, that China can only dream of.

In other news, riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” wave, France’s Dassault Aviation has shown its eagerness to make Rafale fighter jets in India, provided the volume is high enough.

The Diplomatic Adviser to the French President, Emmanuel Bonne, who is in India, has come with an offer from the French government to make at least 100 Rafale fighters in India.

In case the Modi government doesn’t agree to manufacture the requisite number of jets, Dassault would like to hike the procurement of parts from India.

France has agreed to equip Indian Rafale fighters with air-to-surface Hammer all-weather smart weapon apart from air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon, Hindustan Times reported.

The Hammer is a fire and forget weapon that can be launched from a very short range to a very long range of 70 kilometres without availability of GPS and has high resistance to jamming and target location errors.