India is ramping up its air power with a slew of new inductions, in clear message to China not to misjudge New Delhi’s resolve, and revive the relationship, by restoring the status quo ante in Ladakh.
The entire lot of 36 cutting edge Rafale fighter jets will be inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF) by early next year. The Hindustan Times is reporting that the remaining six Rafale multi-role jets will be more advanced, coming with country-specific enhancements including long range air-to-air missiles, frequency jammers and advanced communications.
Citing IAF officials, the daily said that the first of the three Rafales with India specific improvements with arrive from Istres-Le Tube air base, north-west of Marseille, France in December. The last three of these multi-role jets will land at the Ambala air base in January 2022. The Istres air base has test bed facilities for manufacturer Dassault Aviation to install India specific enhancements on Rafale fighter planes.
Once the India specific changes are satisfactorily tested in Indian conditions, the remaining 30 Rafales with India will also be retrofitted with the same enhancements next year, resulting in a world class fleet of fighters, with high deterrence value. The Indian Rafales, with Ambala as their air base are geared to handle the two-front threat in the western sector. Those based in Hashimara are dedicated to respond to threats in the eastern sector.
Two other major developments are taking place to add more teeth to India’s formidable air power. The project to field a battle-ready fleet of Mirage 2000 jets has got a new fillip. The IAF has recently received the first two Mirage 2000 tactical bombers from France as part of a contract for 24 used aircraft.
“The Indian Air Force has received two Mirage 2000 trainer version aircraft from France. The two aircraft were flying with their Air Force and arrived at the Gwalior airbase recently,” ANI news agency reported.
In July 2011, the IAF had signed a contract with Dassault to modernise 51 Mirage 2000 multipurpose fighter aircraft. These were to be upgraded to Mirage 2000 I/TI standards with new suite of avionics and missiles, including MICA air-to-air missiles. The Mirage 2000 planes were successfully battle tested during the Balakot counter-terror strikes inside Pakistan.
Besides, the Defence Ministry has announced procurement of a GSAT-7C Communication satellite for use by the IAF. The decision taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), will impart a quantum jump in linking the IAF and Army in a secure communication network.
The satellite will interlink different aerial platforms such as the Beriev A-50 Phalcon and the DRDO’s AEW&CS with ground stations. The GSAT series of geosynchronous communications satellites was designed and manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Simultaneouly, India will also be completing the deployment of the super-powerful S-400 surface-to-air missiles, removing a critical bit of assymetery in the India-China military equation.
Given, India’s resolve not to cave in to military pressure, it is time for the Mandarins in Beijing to realise that attempts at arm twisting New Delhi will simply not work, and will be counterproductive. In fact, if the status quo ante at the borders is not restored soon, it can deepen mistrust and further vitiate people-to-people ties , making it harder to revive an economic and deeply rooted cultural relationship, even after calm at the frontiers has been eventually restored.