As the first batch of five Rafale jets landed at Haryana’s Ambala air base on Wednesday after, a jubilated Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the touchdown of the combat aircraft marks the beginning of a “new era in India’s military history.”
In a series of tweets, he said these multi-role aircraft will revolutionise the capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “courage and decisiveness”, the defence minister said the Rafale jets were purchased only because the PM took the right decision to get them through an Inter-Governmental Agreement with France, after the long pending procurement case for them could not progress.
Rajnath Singh also congratulated the Indian Air Force for executing the complete exercise fairly.
“I congratulate the IAF on a professionally executed ferry. I am sure that 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, will continue to live upto their motto of ‘Udayam Ajasram’. I am extremely happy that IAF’s combat capability has got a timely boost,” Singh tweeted.
In another tweet, the Defence Minister also thanked the French Government, Dassault Aviation and other French companies for ensuring the timely delivery of the aircraft and its weapons, despite the severe restrictions posed by Coronavirus pandemic.
Taking a swipe at the Congress, Singh said the Rafale jets were purchased only after they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF and added that the baseless allegations against the procurement have already been answered and settled.
The Congress had accused massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the Government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.
The Supreme Court had in December 2018 given a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
A three-Judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dismissed all the petitions seeking court-monitored probe into Rafale fighter jet deal, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal.
Further, speaking on the capabilities of the Rafale jets, Singh said 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.
He further added: “…If it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity.”
The Rafale combat jets are being inducted into the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron of the Indian Air Force.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the 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.
This will provide the IAF a much-needed muscle amid a depleting fighter strength.