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The delivery of the first four Rafale fight aircrafts was supposed to have arrived by the end of May from France but due to the outbreak of the coronavirus it was postponed by two months. The aircrafts reportedly cannot be matched by India’s rivals China and Pakistan.
Defence sources told Asia’s premiere news agency, ANI: “The first four aircrafts including three twin-seater trainer aircrafts and one single-seater fighter aircraft would start arriving by the end of July at the Ambala airbase.
“The trainers will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a pivotal role in finalising India’s largest-ever defence deal for 36 Rafale combat aircrafts.”
The Commanding Officer of the 17 Golden Arrows’ squadron is set to pilot the first aircraft alongside a French pilot.
According to reports, during the flight from France to India, it will stop at a French Air Force tanker aircraft to be refuelled before stopping in the Middle East.
A source said: “From Middle East to India, there would be one mid-air refuelling done by the Indian IL-78 tanker before they land in India.”
Seven Indian pilots have already completed their training at a French airbase while a second group will be travelling to France for training once the threat of the deadly coronavirus is relaxed in both countries.
Back in 2016, India signed a deal worth more than Rs 60,000 crore (£653.15) with France for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.
This is the biggest ever in terms on monetary in India and Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria headed the negotiation team for the deal.
The new fighter aircrafts are armed with a long-range Meteor air-to-air missile and SCALP.
It is reported that, with the air-to-air and air-to-ground strike capabilities, the Rafales cannot be matched by both China and Pakistan.
Earlier it emerged the Indian Air Force had sent war aircrafts to the border after Chinese military helicopters were spotting flying close to India’s airspace last week.
The contested border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) stretches more than 2,500 miles.
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The LAC, which runs through territories including the disputed Kashmir region, has been a point of conflict between the two nations for decades and triggered a brief war in 1962.
According to the ANI: “The Chinese military helicopters were flying very close to the Line of Actual Control.
“After their movement was picked up, the Indian Air Force fighter jets flew patrols in the area.”
The military flyover is the latest sign of growing discontent between the two world superpowers after skirmishes broke out in the region over the weekend.
Disturbances erupted between Indian and Chinese troops on border patrols on Saturday.
According to India’s Hindustan Times newspaper four Indian soldiers and seven Chinese troops were injured.
It is understood up to 150 military personnel were involved in the incident in the north eastern state of Sikkim.
In a statement the Indian defence ministry said: “Aggressive behaviour by the two sides resulted in minor injuries to troops.
“The two sides disengaged after dialogue and interaction at the local level.”
The Chinese foreign ministry declined to acknowledge the reported incident and insisted it has maintained close communications and coordination over existing channels.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “Chinese border troops have consistently upheld the peace and tranquillity in its border areas.”
The current coronavirus crisis would have done little to ease tensions between the two nations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks set to extend the lockdown on more than 1.3 billion people.
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