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Rafale induction a game changer, says Rajnath Singh

Rafale fighter aircraft which was inducted into indian airforce at the Ambala air base on September 10, 2020.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday called the induction of the French Rafale fighter jet into the Indian Air Force (IAF) a “game changer” and termed it a very important step in the light of the prevailing security conditions that “have been created along India’s borders.”

This formal ceremony also marks their full operational induction into the IAF, said Air Chief Marshal (ACM) RKS Bhadauria. “They are good to go and deliver,” he said.

Also read: Rafale jets | The ‘game-changer’ fighters

At the ceremony at the Ambala airbase, Mr. Singh said, “The IAF plays an important role in maintaining military deterrence and their actions will be decisive in any future war. While the prevailing situation on our boundaries has caught our attention, we should not ignore the threat of cross-border terrorism”.

India’s responsibilities were not limited to land borders alone. In the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region, it was working with international community as a commitment to world peace, he noted.

Vigilance was the first measure of security on the northern borders amid current security challenges, he pointed out.

Water canon salute to Rafale during the induction at Ambala Airbase, on September 10, 2020.

Water canon salute to Rafale during the induction at Ambala Airbase, on September 10, 2020.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

French Defence Minister Florence Parly who was present at the induction, said that in strategic terms, India would have an edge over the entire region with the induction of the Rafales.

Five Rafales were inducted into the No. 17 Golden Arrows squadron. This is the first imported fighter to be inducted since the Sukhoi-30s came from Russia in the late 90s.

More opportune time

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria, in a reference to the ongoing stand-off with China along the disputed boundary in Ladakh, said the induction could not have happened at a more opportune time, given the security scenario today.

Pilots had undergone intense combat training with other aircraft and also firing of advanced weaponry. From Ambala, the Rafales would be able to rapidly access our areas of interest, he added.

A traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’ was performed, followed by an air display by the Rafales and indigenous Tejas aircraft as well as by the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team. A traditional water cannon salute was given to the jets before their formal induction.

The five Rafales arrived at Ambala from France in July-end. They were handed over to India in France last October but have since been used for training IAF pilots there.

The jets, three single-seat and two twin-seater trainers, were flown from France by IAF pilots led by Commanding Officer of No. 17 squadron Group Captain Harkirat Singh. They give a major capability boost to the IAF amid falling squadron strength. Upon India’s request, France has speeded up deliveries of the Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile along with the first batch of jets. The second batch of four Rafales are expected to arrive in October.

‘France always with India’

In a joint statement after the bilateral talks between the two sides, Ms. Parly said the induction of the Rafale marked a step forward in the strategic partnership that dated back to 1998. “France has always stood beside with India both through good and bad times,” she noted.

Also read: Looking beyond the Rafale

Ms. Parly stated that they also planned to reinforce cooperation in maritime, air, space and cyber domains. There were also great prospects for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, where “there are common ambition in terms of maritime security and preservation of freedom of navigation.”

2016 agreement

In September 2016, India signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France for 36 Rafales in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE). The Rafale was originally selected under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender issued in 2007. But the final deal got stuck due to differences and the tender was eventually withdrawn after the emergency purchase announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015, citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.

Also read: Chronology of events in Rafale fighter jets deal case

The ISE include Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search and tracking systems among others. In addition, the Rafale is armed with the Meteor missile (considered a game changer in the region with a range of over 150 km), the SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and the MICA multi-mission air-to-air missile. The IAF is also arming the Rafale with HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) medium-range air-to-ground missiles being procured through emergency route.

The Ambala airbase also houses two squadrons of Jaguar fighters and one squadron of MiG-21 Bison. Hasimara in West Bengal will house the second Rafale squadron.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 6:39:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/iaf-inducts-five-rafale-jets-at-ambala/article32568597.ece

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