A fifth batch of Dassault Rafale EH multi-role fighters have been delivered to India, bringing the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) fleet to 17 aircraft.
The four multi-role fighters, comprising three single-seat Rafale EHs, were flown directly from the platform's final assembly line at Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Base - located in southwest France - to India on April 21.
A fourth aircraft - a two-seat Rafale DH - was also due to be delivered, but prior to departure the aircraft is believed to have suffered from technical issues and was subsequently towed back to the hangar to be fixed, leaving just the three EHs to make the delivery trip to India.
During the almost 8,000km ferry flight, the four fighters were supported by Airbus A330-243 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) belonging to the French Air and Space Force (FASF) and the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEAF&AD).
The first batch of five IAF Rafales arrived in India on July 29, 2020 and was followed by the second batch of three aircraft on November 4. The third and fourth batches arrived on January 27, 2021, and March 31, respectively – both of which comprised three aircraft. Arrival of the fifth batch in India brings the total number of Rafales delivered to the IAF to 17, comprising 14 Rafale EHs and three Rafale DHs.
India’s Rafale acquisition faltered for over a decade, but the nation eventually signed a €7.8bn contract to acquire 36 examples from Dassault Aviation in 2016. The deal comprised 28 Rafale EHs and eight examples of the DH variant. India initially selected the platform under its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme, which called for a total of 126 aircraft. However, these plans were cancelled in July 2015 and just 36 Rafales have been ordered for the IAF so far.