The Indian Air Force (IAF) technically accepted its first Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft during a ceremony at Dassault Aviation’s facility in Bordeaux, France on Sept. 19.
The twin-seat version of the jet, with tail number RB-001, was accepted by a team led by IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshal VR Chaudhari. RB in the tail number marks the role played by Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria in finalizing the deal to procure the jets in September 2016. Air Marshal Bhadauria will take over as IAF’s next Chief of Air Staff later this month.
The official handing over of the jet is scheduled on October 8 when Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visits France.
In 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition for $8.8 billion. Out of the 36 Rafales ordered for the IAF, 28 are single-seat jets, designated Rafale EH, and the remaining are dual-seat jets, designated Rafale DH.
The first batch of Rafale jets are scheduled to arrive in India in April-May next year and all the 36 jets ordered will arrive in the country by September 2022.
The first squadron of Rafales are likely to be stationed at Ambala Air Force Station, one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF around around 220 km from Indo-Pak border. Ambala’s future No. 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” will have a final strength of 18 jets by 2022. The second squadron of 18 combat jets will be stationed at Hasimara AFS in West Bengal.