The first set of cutting-edge Rafale fighter jets – equipped with perhaps the world’s best long-range air-to-air missiles – is expected to reach India by July 27. As per the initial plan, four fighters were to reach the home base at Ambala next month but sources said that France has now made a commitment to send additional Rafales in the first batch. A total of eight aircraft are nearing certification but it is unclear how many additional fighters could be delivered early.
The planes will be ferried by Indian pilots who have been trained in France and will be fully combat ready when they arrive at Ambala. Sources said that in support of early delivery, France has committed that it will deploy its aerial refuelers to ensure that the jets make it to India with just a single hop.
Key defence supplier Israel, which showed its commitment as a reliable partner during the Kargil war too, is expected to deliver a much-needed air defence system that will be deployed along the border. Sources said the unnamed air defence system is likely to come from the current holdings of the Israeli defence forces and would supplement the Ladakh sector. This would be useful as the Chinese side is said to have deployed its newly acquired S-400 air defence system in the sector as well.
India’s largest defence supplier Russia has pledged urgent delivery of weapons, ammunition and missiles that India asked for during the recent visit to Moscow by defence minister Rajnath Singh. A detailed list has been shared by India for several dozen requirements that would cost in excess of $1 billion and a commitment has been received from Russia of delivery within weeks.
Given that most land-based systems such as tanks and armoured carriers are of Russian origin, India is looking for a variety of ammunition that will be required in the event of a larger conflict. The air force is looking for urgent supply of air-dropped bombs and missiles while the army requires anti-tank missiles and man-portable air defence systems for the border.
India’s newest strategic partner – the US – has already been helping out with vital intelligence and satellite imagery that give military planners clarity on the border situation. Sources said that the US has invited India to share a list of all requirements with a commitment to be of assistance at the earliest.
In particular, additional Excalibur artillery rounds have been ordered on an emergency basis. The precision attack rounds with a range of over 40 km are used in a variety of artillery guns in the Indian inventory, including the M 777s that are designed for mountain warfare. These rounds are known for their accuracy and damage potential and have been tried and tested by the army.
The commitments have been made after top-level bilateral talks and a key meeting in the capital at which it was decided that emergency financial powers will be given to the armed forces to prepare for a prolonged standoff in eastern Ladakh.