Pilots Fully Ops On Rafale, IAF Declares Days Before Jets Arrive

Indian Air Force aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now, the Indian Air Force said in a statement today, just over a week before its first five Rafales arrive in country on July 29.

The statement is an unusual one, perhaps the first where the IAF has explicitly declare the operational status of its crews, usually a topic that’s kept understandably vague. The context is understandable though. With a war-like mobilisation between Indian and Chinese ground forces in eastern Ladakh leading to a tense war-like standoff since early May, the statement comes as the latest in a slew of air power messages that India has actioned for foreign (read Chinese) consumption.

Interestingly, the IAF statement adds, ‘Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.’ Again, that’s something clearly said keeping in view the current atmosphere of conflict. While a domestic audience is undoubtedly curious about whether these ‘game changer’ jets will be wielded against China in the Ladakh theatre, the IAF is understandably eager to dispel any doubts that there will be no delays in completing default procedures — both logistical and tactical — before the jets are combat ready.

As Livefist reported last month, the IAF Rafale fleet’s weaponry has already begun arriving ahead of the jets, with MBDA SCALP, Meteor and MICA missiles already in special storage at Ambala. MBDA put out this infographic last week on the weapons package:

The five Rafales will fly tactical missions from Ambala once they arrive, though a formal induction ceremony into the Golden Arrows squadron will be held in late August. The jets will make their public debut on October 8 at the Air Force Day flypast.

With the arrival and operationalisation of the Rafales, expect French efforts to supply more jets to gather steam. France has been hoping to get India to commit to 36 more Rafales since 2018, though those plans were drowned out by the political Rafale scandal that stretched across the election season. Livefist¬†top viewed interview, with aviation analyst & researcher Angad Singh, advocates the acquisition of at least two more Rafale squadrons, considering India has sunk considerable costs into ‘India-specific enhancements’ and logistics for the French jet at Ambala and Hasimara. Watch that full interview here, and look out for our coverage through this week on the IAF Rafale ahead first arrivals July 29.

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