In a major blow to India's strategic interest, the delivery schedule of Rafale fighter jets may get delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The production facility in France has been temporarily shut in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic which may push the delivery schedule off track. As per a report published in the Print, the training calendar of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots has also been halted amid the French government ramping up measures to contain Coronavirus. Notably, Dassault Aviation's Bordeaux-Mérignac production facility which has been tasked to manufacture Rafale fighter jet will remain closed until March 31.
One of the sources informed, "Work has been stopped as a precautionary measure. The training and other related matters have also been put on hold. The steps are being taken as part of the overall protocols being put in place in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak."
Further delay spells trouble
The source further informed that if the production facility remains shut beyond March 31, the delivery of these aircraft will be affected. Moreover, after the machines are kept idle for a while, it will have to undergo mandatory servicing before the routine production starts. The delivery of eleven fighter jets that are lined for this year may be affected. Presently, four Rafale jets are under production with another four going through trail. The French government is leaving no stone unturned to deliver the jets on time, but the Coronavirus epidemic has severely impacted the lives across the globe.
India has signed a deal to procure 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition at a cost of €7.87 billion. France has additionally offered 2 more squadrons of Rafale jets. The offer for the same number of aircraft would cost considerably lesser as India has already made payments for fixed costs covering India-specific enhancements, training equipment, and infrastructure. The first two squadrons of Rafale aircraft will be stationed as 17 Squadron 'Golden Arrows' in Ambala and another in Hasimara to secure the Eastern borders