Rafale fighter jets and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been in the news for obvious reasons, but this is one piece of news about the two entities which is on a completely different line.

The first delivery of the Rafale fighter jet is expected to be made in September and as per the sources, the first Rafale combat aircraft would be inducted into the IAF’s Golden Arrows 17 Squadron. What makes it special is that the Golden Arrows 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, the current Air Force chief, during the 1999 Kargil war.

The 17 squadron was earlier located in Bhatinda in Punjab. Now, it would be shifted to Ambala in Haryana.

“The first unit to receive the Rafale combat aircraft would be the 17 Squadron which was earlier located in Bhatinda in Punjab and will now be shifted to Ambala in Haryana,” ANI quoted IAF sources.

The Ambala air base has been housing the Jaguar aircraft squadrons, with an eye on the Pakistan front. Due to rapid deployment capabilities, the planes can be utilised on both the fronts in case of requirement.

According to the sources, another squadron of the Rafale fighter aircraft would be based out of Hashimara in West Bengal. This is being done to tackle the front facing China. Earlier, the 17 Squadron used to operate the MiG-21s.

The first Rafale would be required to undergo intensive 1,500 hours of testing to validate the India Specific Enhancements on it. So, the first batch of the four planes is likely to arrive at Ambala around May 2020.

On Monday, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa led a missing man formation with MiG 21 fighter jets over the skies of Bhatinda as a tribute to Kargil War hero Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja. The ‘missing man’ flypast is an aerial salute to honour the fallen comrades-in-arms in an air force.

Sq Ldr Ahuja was killed 20 years ago on May 27 during Operation Safed Sagar undertaken to evict Pakistani infiltrators from Kargil.

Sq Ldr Ahuja was posthumously awarded the Vir Chakra.

(With agency inputs)