In the wake of a military standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will on Wednesday receive the first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft, that will land at the Ambala air base for induction.
This will provide the IAF a much-needed muscle amid a depleting fighter strength.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will receive the Rafale fighter jets.
The jets flew out from the Merignac air base in the French port city of Bordeaux and after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km landed at Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates on Monday night.
The fleet comprises three single seater- and two twin seater- aircraft. They will be inducted into the Indian Air Force as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows at Ambala air base.
The Air Force has stated that the pilots, ground crew and the fighter will be operationally ready as the jets reach India.
Rafale would be a game changer in the current scenario when India is locked in multiple standoffs with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in its northern borders, while in the western borders, it is busy tackling the increasing cross-border firing and infiltration bids by Pakistan-based terror groups.
Meanwhile, the induction at the Air Force Station in Ambala will be subject to weather conditions.
India Meteorological Department has predicted “generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers” for Ambala today.
The final induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August 20.
“IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now,” IAF said.
Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.
The Rafale fighter aircraft will be armed with beyond visual range missiles like Meteor, SCALP and MICA, increasing their ability to take on incoming targets from a distance.
A senior Indian Air Force officer said that Rafale fighter jets would be a major force multiplier. “There would always be a fear factor within the minds of the enemies,” said the officer, adding that even one Indian Rafale fighter can thwart the enemy’s plans.
He also explained that India will be supreme in the sky when the Rafale fighet aircraft come to the theatre.
Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft and has the latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture.
Senior Indian Air Force officers state that China’s premier fighter jet Chengdu J-20A is no match to Rafale capabilities which has been seen in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
China claims that its J-20 is a 5th generation fighter aircraft, however, it has a 3rd generation engine, said a senior IAF officer questioning stealth capabilities of the aircraft.
China is now going to buy Russian Su35 to match Rafale.
The officer also said that Rafale is an omni-role aircraft which means it can carry out at least four missions in one sortie. However, China J-20 cannot carry out multiple missions in one go.
Further, the Rafale fighter aircraft will have HAMMER missiles.
The meteor missile in Rafale makes it far more potent than the J-20. The officer also explained that the Rafale engine is better in terms of reliability, longevity and maintainability.
The officer further pointed out that Rafale can lift loads up to 1.5 times its weight, which means it can carry weapons and fuel of far greater capacity than the J-20.
In Western Theatre Command, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has deployed 157 fighters and 20 GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs.
India has deployed 270 fighter aircraft and 68 ground attack aircraft.
The ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, which operated from the Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the Indian Air Force started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin MIG-21 jets. It was formed in 1951 and initially flew the Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters.
The squadron has been resurrected and will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for Rs 58,000 crore.
The first Rafale fighter was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Delivery of ten aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.
In accordance with the contract, the Indian Air Force pilots and support personnel have been provided full training on the aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault. Further batches of Indian Air Force personnel will continue the training over the next nine months, the statement said.
India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes India’s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then the Mystere, Jaguar and Mirage.
French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, on Tuesday told ANI that the planes are outstanding and the Indian technicians and pilots marvellously completed their training in France. “They are totally capable to use these planes at their best,” he said.
Meanwhile, Section 144 CrPC has been imposed in four villages close to Ambala airbase. Gathering of people on roofs and photography during landing is strictly prohibited.