Ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron's India visit in December, Defence Minister Florence Parley will be arriving here on a two- day visit next week.
During her stay here on October 27-28, Parley will hold a delegation-level meeting with her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. A wide range of issues, including defence projects, maritime security and counter-terrorism, are likely to come up during the meet.
Parley will also be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.
According to a report in Times of India, France is very keen to hard-sell additional Rafale fighter jets to India.
The Government of India had in September last year inked the Rs 59,000 crore deal for the 36 Rafales, with their weapon packages, associated supplies and logistics, after scrapping the long-pending and deadlocked $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for 126 fighters on the ground that they were a ‘critical operational necessity’ for the IAF.
The IAF has itself projected the operational need to go in for another 36 Rafales after the first 36 are inducted at the Hasimara (West Bengal) and Ambala (Haryana) airbases from November 2019 to mid-2022.
The Ambala as well as Hasimara stations will also have simulator-based training facilities for the air crew of Rafale jets. The IAF has already selected a batch of pilots to fly the jets and they are being given training by Dassault Aviation in France.
The Rafale squadron to be deployed in Ambala will be known as Golden Arrows which was originally based in Bhatinda and was disbanded two years ago.
The Rafale combat jets will come with various India- specific modifications including Israeli helmet mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10 hour flight data recording and infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF, which is currently down to 34 squadrons as against a sanctioned strength of 44, includes its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range of 150 KM.
Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India's territorial boundary.
Parley will also be travelling to Nagpur to lay the foundation stone for a joint venture facility being set up between Rafale-manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence to execute the 50 per cent offsets obligation under the last year’s deal.