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France to provide A330 mid-air refueller to IAF on lease for training

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has approached the French government to lease one Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft for training purposes as a prelude to leasing five more mid-air refuellers to boost its multi-role fighters' combat capability and range.

The leasing would be done on a government-to-government basis, with the IAF already issuing a request for information (RFI) for a single aircraft and the additional five refuellers on lease using a request for proposals route. During Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria's visit to France last week, the subject was addressed.

IAF official said, “With IAF looking towards A330 refuellers for its future, it is only natural that its pilots are trained in advance to handle the aircraft as mid-air refuelling is a precision process with zero margin of error and huge stakes.”

While the IAF has six IL-78 M mid-air refuellers of Russian origin, the A330 refuellers outperform the current aircraft in terms of flexibility, as the latter can accommodate not only fuel but also troops and arm payload on a roll-on-roll-off basis. There have been restrictions on load carrying and taking off with payload from high mountain bases such as Leh and Thoise in the case of the IL-78 M.

The French and UAE air forces have been using A330 refuellers to move 17 Rafale omni-role fighters from Merignac-Bordeaux to India since July 2020.Another batch of seven fighters is expected to arrive in India in May, with the first batch being stationed at the new Hashimara air base in West Bengal

The A330 can not only fly with a full load in the thin atmosphere of Ladakh and beyond, but it can also deliver fuel to Indian fighters at Himalayan heights, with a fighting range of 1800 km and a fuel capacity of 50 tonnes for four hours. The A330 has a 14,800-kilometer ferry range.

The IAF requires compatible mdi-air refuellers to fight any move from the north, with top-of-the-line Rafale aircraft in its inventory. The IAF must be ready because the Chinese army is hesitant to restore the status quo in Eastern Ladakh's Gogra-H`ot Springs district, while the PLA beefs up all along the Line of Actual Control until Arunachal Pradesh.

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