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India to Deploy New Rafale Jets at Air Bases Facing China and Pakistan

By Arthur Dominic J. Villasanta , | May 18, 2017

Bombed-up Rafale of the French Air Force.

Bombed-up Rafale of the French Air Force.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to deploy the first two squadrons of its new Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters at air force stations in the west and east after the first of these advanced fourth generation fighters arrive in 2019.

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In September 2016, India signed a deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighters. The first aircraft is to be delivered by September 2019 and all the aircraft should be delivered by 2022.

The acquisition of the Rafales will have an immediate and dramatic effect on the balance of power on the Indian subcontinent. The Rafales give India a weapon potent enough to challenge Pakistan's U.S.-made General Dynamics F-16 air superiority fighters and the PAC JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters produced jointly by Pakistan and China.

India hopes the Rafales, which can carry nuclear weapons, can help address the military imbalance in its favor. Despite the acquisition of the French fighters, the IAF still needs more modern combat aircraft.

IAF has decided to deploy one Rafale squadron (16 aircraft) to the Hasimara Air Force Station located in Alipurduar district, West Bengal. Hasimara is strategically located near the Indo-Bhutan border facing China.

The station is currently home to No.2 Squadron (Winged Arrows), a unit dedicated to close air support. The squadron, which falls under the Eastern Air Command, flies the Sukhoi Su-30MKI.

The second Rafale squadron will be assigned to the Ambala Air Force Station in the state of Haryana, and located on the border with the Indian state of Punjab bordering Pakistan.

Ambala, one of the IAF's largest stations, is home to No. 5 Squadron (Tuskers) flying the SEPECAT Jaguar IS attack jets; No. 14 Squadron (Bulls) also flying Jaguars, and No. 23 Squadron (Panthers) equipped with Mikoyan MiG-21Bison.

Both the Jaguars and Mig-21s are due for retirement because of their obsolescence.

The IAF's fighter force still consists of MiGs, mostly obsolete, acquired from the Soviet Union or post Soviet Union Russia. IAF said it needs jets to fill 42 squadrons, 10 squadrons fewer than what it has now.


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