Labelled a 'game changer,' the French Rafale fighter jet will give the IAF added muscle when it comes to defending its borders or other combat threats. Credit: Handout.

Chinese military officials take note — France has said that it will deliver Rafale fighter jets to the Indian Air Force on time despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, The Hindustan Times reported.

This was communicated to defence minister Rajnath Singh by his French counterpart Florence Parly during a phone call.

“France reaffirmed its commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the defence ministry said in a statement after the two ministers spoke.

The IAF is likely to get the delivery of the first batch of four Rafale jets from France by July-end. The four fighters were supposed to fly to their home base in India in May 2020, but the plan was delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the report said.

India and China are currently embroiled in a border dispute, and the new fighter jets will no doubt give the IAF renewed confidence in guarding its frontiers.

Confinement measures announced by France to battle the outbreak had temporarily halted production at aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s Merignac facility, the report said.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to arrest the worrying slide in the air force’s combat capabilities.

According to the delivery schedule, the first 18 jets (including the four in the first batch) are supposed to be delivered to the IAF by February 2021, with the rest expected by April-May 2022, the report said.

According to liveMINT, the Rafale jet has been described as a “game changer” for the Indian Air Force (IAF) as it significantly increases its capabilities.

The jet comes equipped with a range of potent weapons including the European missile maker, MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile.

The Meteor is a next generation missile that promises to revolutionize air-to-air combat and has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden, liveMINT reported.

Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will incorporate India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems.