Rafales a game changer: Rajnath

Close ties:Defence Minister Rajnath Singh giving a memento to his French counterpart Florence Parly at Ambala on Thursday. Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria is at right.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 said it was a very important step in light of the security conditions that “have been created along India’s borders.”

The formal ceremony marked the full operational induction of the jets into the IAF, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said.

“They are good to go and deliver,” he added.

At the ceremony at the airbase here, 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 said.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly who was present, 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 stand-off with China, said the induction could not have happened at a more opportune time, given the security scenario.

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 and 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.

In a joint statement after bilateral talks, 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.

Ms. Parly said they planned to reinforce cooperation in maritime, air, space and cyber domains. There were great prospects for co-operation in the Indo-Pacific.