Five Rafales arrive at Ambala airbase

This is the first imported fighter to be inducted into Service since the Sukhoi-30s from Russia in the late 90s.

July 29, 2020 10:56 am | Updated 09:40 pm IST - New Delhi

The Rafale jets being escorted by Sukhoi 30 MKIs at India's airspace.

The Rafale jets being escorted by Sukhoi 30 MKIs at India's airspace.

Forty-six months after the €7.87 bn contract was signed, the first five of 36 Rafale fighter jets landed at the Ambala airbase on Wednesday afternoon and the crew were welcomed by Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria.

Also read: There will be no delay in supply of Rafale jets to India: France

This is the first imported fighter to be inducted into Service since the Sukhoi-30s from Russia in the late 90s.

A formal induction ceremony of the Rafale aircraft in 17 Squadron is scheduled to be held in the second half of August, the IAF said in a statement.

“The touchdown of Rafale combat aircraft in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircraft will revolutionalise the capabilities of the IAF,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in a series of tweets. “I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the IAF, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity.”

Also read: Looking beyond the Rafale

Mr. Singh pointed out that the aircraft has very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors and Electronic Warfare capabilities are amongst the best in the world. “Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country”, he said.

As the jets entered the Indian Ocean Region, stealth destroyer INS Kolkata , deployed in the Western Arabian Sea, established contact and wished them happy landing. Later, the Rafales were escorted by two Su-30MKI fighters as they entered the Indian airspace and as the jets landed at Ambala, they were given a water cannon salute.

The five jets- three single-seat and two twin-seat trainers, were flown from France by IAF pilots led by Commanding Officer of No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ Squadron Group Captain Harkirat Singh.

8,500 km journey

The aircraft covered a distance of nearly 8,500 km from France to India, the IAF said. The first stage of the flight covered a distance of 5800 km in seven and a half hours from France to United Arab Emirates (UAE)with mid-air refuelling support by French Air Force tanker aircraft. “The second stage of the flight covering over 2700 km was carried out with air-to-air refuelling by IAF tanker aircraft,” the IAF stated.

Also read: Investigative reports by N. Ram on the Rafale deal

IAF pilots and technicians have already trained extensively on the jets in France as part of the contract and the training would continue there for another nine months.

The Rafale gives a capability boost to the IAF with its armaments and comes at a time of ongoing tensions with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

In September 2016, India and France signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multirole fighter jets in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) following a surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015, citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF. 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 announced by Mr. Modi.

Formal delivery of first jet

Mr. Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first jet in France last October and the jets have since been used for training there. Delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed so far, of which five will stay back in France for training. Delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed as per schedule by end 2021.Upon India’s request, France has speeded up deliveries of Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile missiles along with the first batch of jets.

The ISE include Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, infrared 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, SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles. 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 first Rafale built by Dassault Aviation for the IAF, a two-seater variant, made its maiden flight on October 30, 2018, in France and is designated RB-008 after ACM Bhadauria as he played a major role in the contract negotiations as Deputy Chief of the IAF. The RB-008 will also be the last aircraft to be delivered to the IAF as all ISE will be validated on it before being incorporated on other jets.

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

Ahead of the arrival of the jets, Section 144 was imposed around Ambala Cantonment to prevent large gatherings and public were advised not to gather on rooftops.


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