Reports: IAF pitches for 36 additional Rafale warplanes
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is pitching to purchase an additional 36 French-made Dassault Rafale fighter jets as a "follow-on" to the first 36 warplanes. Last September, the IAF signed a Rs. 59,000 crore contract to buy 36 Rafales. Sources in the defense ministry said the IAF made "some presentations" in which it said the "follow-on" deal would cost 60% of the original price.
IAF's fighter jet squadron strength very low
The IAF currently has 35 active fighter squadrons as opposed to a sanctioned strength of 42. Each squadron has between 18 to 20 aircraft. However, as per a recent Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Defence, the IAF's actual strength may be down to 25 squadrons.
IAF argues 36 additional Rafales would be cost-effective
The IAF told the defense ministry that the 36 "follow-on" fighters would be cheaper than the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) India plans to develop with Russia. The first two Rafale squadrons, of 18 jets each, will be based at Hasimara (West Bengal) and Ambala (Haryana). Since both bases can accommodate the fighters, the second batch of 36 warplanes would incur reduced induction costs.
Rafale can greatly increase IAF's strength
The twin-engine Rafale has a combat range of 780-1650 km (depending on the mission) and can carry a 9.3-tonne weapons load. It can launch nuclear strikes and is capable of simultaneously conducting air defense and ground-attack roles. The Rafale possesses the "cold start" capability to perform from high-altitude regions. It can conduct five sorties a day while other IAF planes can at best do three.