The Indian Air Force (IAF) will receive the first five of the highly anticipated Rafale fighter jets today per a $9.2 billion deal inked with France. An additional 31 aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2022.
The arrival of the Rafales comes on the heels of the recently concluded Air Force Commanders Conference (AFCC). Inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the AFCC discussed the forward operational deployment of aerial defence assets, including the Rafale fighter jets, to the Line of Actual Control (LAC)—the country’s de facto border with China—following the Galwan Valley skirmish. Thus far, almost all frontline jets, like the Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft, have been deployed to bases in Eastern Ladakh and the LAC.
The deal constitutes a major move in the IAF’s transformational roadmap for the next decade (Vision 2030). The Rafale deal is part of the IAF’s plan to replace Soviet-era aircraft with more advanced fighters and buttress depleting force levels with an additional 400 aircraft by 2030. This will likely augment their territorial advantage and grant operational flexibility to address short to mid-term threats like the border skirmish. Expect this aerial show of force to somewhat discourage China from further sabre-rattling.
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