Another batch of three Rafale fighter jets landed at the Ambala airbase on Thursday, taking the total number of Rafales in the Indian Air Force (IAF) inventory to 23. According to people aware of the development in Dassault, four aircraft were supposed to take off from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase in France on May 20, but only three could because of the unavailability of more mid-air refuellers in the UAE.

Although four Rafale Omni role fighters were supposed to leave on May 20, the flights were rescheduled due to maintenance issues with the mid air refuellers. The fighters could only take off today due to long weekend holidays in France, the people cited above said.

The IAF is all set to resurrect the 101 “Falcons of Chamb” squadron at Hashimara in West Bengal. It is expected that the full deliveries of 36 Rafale aircraft will be completed well before April 2022 as announced by Union defence minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament.

With India likely to buy more front-line fighters to complete the stalled requirement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), the French have not only offered hot engine technology to India but are also willing to jointly develop extended range and capability Hammer air-to-ground missile under the Atmanirbhar Bharat route. French engine manufacturer Safran has already conveyed the offer for jointly developing aircraft engines upto 100 Kilo Newton thrust as well as share the hot engine technology which Indian allies in the west are reluctant to share.

France has also offered to share and jointly develop technology for longer range and heavier Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range (Hammer) missile which is currently part of the weapons package on the Indian Rafale. With a range of over 70 kilometres, the Hammer weapon can be guided on to the target using GPS, Inertial Navigation and Infra-red seeker with the capability to adjust to target location mid-air using maps for course correction. The latest version of this weapon has a 1,000 kilogram bomb and with laser guidance technology.

India ordered 36 warplanes from France (equivalent of two squadrons) in 2016 for ?59,000 crore under a government-to-government deal.