To welcome the first Rafale fighter jet at the end of this month, the Air Force has revived the 17 squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station. The “Golden Arrows” 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999 and will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.
While addressing air force officers, BS Dhanoa said the squadron did excellent work since its installation and after Jaguar and MIG-21 fighter aircraft, the Ambala air base would now get the Rafale fighter.
The Ambala station has jumped from MIG-21 to latest modern Aircraft Rafale. In the near future, 17 squadron will be the first one to be equipped with the state-of-the-art Rafale aircraft, which is an extremely capable, fourth generation aircraft with advanced weapons, he said.
Chief of the Air Staff presented a memento to Group Captain Harkirat Singh to commemorate the occasion. The ceremony was attended by various dignitaries from Indian Air Force and Indian Army.
The 17 squadron, which operated from Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the IAF started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin MIG-21 jets. It was formed in 1951 and initially flew de Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters.
The Indian Air Force has initiated major infrastructure upgrade at its frontline base in Ambala for the deployment of the first squadron of the Rafale jets.
Considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF the Ambala Air Force Station is around 220 km from Indo-Pak border. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
A number of IAF teams have already visited France to help Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, incorporate India-specific enhancements on-board the fighter aircraft. The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
The Congress had raised several questions about the deal, especially on the rates of the aircraft, and alleged that the cost of each aircraft is three times more than what the previous UPA government had negotiated with France in 2012. The party also questioned the discrepancies when the deal was taken away from Dassault Aviation’s Indian partner Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and given to the Anil Ambani’s nascent company, Reliance Defence Limited.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases.
In July 2017, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, during his visit to France, flew a Rafale jet at the Saint-Dizier airbase to gain first-hand experience of the aircraft. According to the deal, the delivery of the jets was to be completed in 67 months from the date the contract was inked.
Ambala air base has almost completed the required infrastructure and training of pilots to operate the fighter aircraft Rafale. Built in 1948, the air base is located on the east side of Ambala in Haryana and is used for military and government flights. It is also used to fly in politicians and other key people.
The Ambala air base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 Bison. Air Marshal Arjan Singh was the first commander of the base.
(With inputs from PTI)