New Delhi (IANS) Less than a fortnight before French aviation major Dassault delivers the first Rafale fighter aircraft to India, an Islamabad-based newspaper report quoted that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilots have already been given access to the fighter jets and have trained to operate them in France.
The unsubstantiated media report, however, did not quote anybody even as it mentioned that the Pakistani military is aware of the exact specifications of the aircraft.
When contacted, Indian Air Force (IAF) officials rubbished the media report by calling it baseless.
"(The aircraft)... has reportedly been undermined by recent reports that Pakistani pilots were given access to the aircraft and trained to operate them in France.... Pakistani military is likely aware of the exact specifications of the fighters has dealt a serious blow to the platform's potential viability in Indian hands," states the newspaper report.
India has signed a multi-billion dollar inter-governmental agreement with France and Dassault Aviation to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft in flyaway condition. The first of these aircraft was technically 'accepted' by the IAF in France last week. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will formally receive the aircraft in France on Dussehra next month.
"While the primary pretext link for Rafale acquisition has been to counter Pakistan, particularly in light of recent skirmishes in the air between the two countries in late February 2019, news that the Pakistani military is likely aware of the exact specifications of the fighters has dealt a serious blow to the platform's potential viability in Indian hands.... Pakistani pilots under the Qatari Air Force were dispatched to France to train on the Rafales," the report further states.
The first of the 36 Rafale aircraft will physically arrive in India only in May 2020. The aircraft will be stationed at Ambala Air Base in Punjab and Hashimara Air Base in West Bengal.