5 Rafale jets from France, What Does the Induction of Rafale Jets Into IAF Mean For India?
Almost twenty years after the discussion on procuring Rafale jets had first begun, the much awaited first batch of the fighter jets is finally here in India.
Short Answer: Does the first few foundational bricks make any difference while you are constructing a house ? No. But you cant build a house without having to start laying down bricks first.
A little more elaborate answer: There are 2 reasons (read till end).
When we count from 0 to 36, unquestionably we start from 1,2,3,4,5 & so on & then eventually reach 36. The first batch of 5 aircraft are a baby step towards having an elaborate fleet of 36 aircraft which will possibly go to 72 in near future (more on it at the end).
Whenever an aircraft is inducted it never happens that all the entire fleet is delivered in a singe day & the next day onward they start making a difference. It is a gradual process which takes time. When the Su-30 were inducted in the IAF 2 decades ago, the first batch was of single digit aircraft. The fleet grew slowly & now we’ve 260+ Su-30MKI aircraft which are backbone of the IAF. And they are still in production.
The first batch of Rafale will establish training procedures, tactics & would lay the underpinnings of training for the maintenance crew. These aspects are often ignored while we just praise the capabilities of the aircraft.
One doesn’t need the entire fleet to learn how to fit a missile on a pylon, check the engine blade for damage, check the avionics & radar, service the mechanical components of the aircraft. To perform all these only one aircraft is needed. And once the crew is trained & the entire 36 aircraft gets operational we’ll have not only 2 squadrons but fully trained pilots & maintenance crew who can support the missions.
Right now only with this small batch of 5 aircraft, 24 pilots & 100 ground crew is trained to handle the Rafale. 5 more aircraft are already delivered to the IAF making the total count to 10 but these 5 are currently undergoing user acceptance trials in Istres, France. These will fly to India by Oct 2020 in Hasimara Air Base.
Dassault has offered 36 more aircraft (2 squadrons) at less than 6 Billion Euros.
This is something that Indian Government should accept after negotiating the cost as we have already paid the fixed cost of developing India specific enhancements, the required support infrastructure & the training.
If we choose to buy this set of 36 aircraft, the MRFA ( previously called MMRCA 2.0) is definitely going to get cancelled. Considering the shortfall of squadrons, India is a little tight on time & money in a Post COVID recovering economy to evaluate, negotiate & then go for 114 fighters.
Instead a fraction of that money should be invested in house to fast-track the development & production of Tejas Mk1A, MWF & AMCA.