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Rafale to the game: Resurrected 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ to form tip-of-the-spear of IAF’s offensive power

This time around, with the induction of the Rafale, as the first batch of five Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafale is likely to arrive in India by end of this month.

Sayan Chatterjee | New Delhi |

The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale aircraft procurement was signed between the Government of India and Government of France on 23 September 2016. 

On October 8th, 2019 Defence Minister Rajnath Singh officially received the first Rafale fighter jet made for IAF by the French aviation major Dassault, who was there then for a three-day official visit. Members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation were also present at the do as far as my archive states. In India Oct 8th, 2019 was Dussehra, the festival where we celebrate victory over evil. It was also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. Therefore, that day was quite symbolic as an etched memory.

This time around, with the induction of the Rafale, as the first batch of five Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafale is likely to arrive in India by end of this month. The aircraft will be inducted at AFS Ambala on 29th of July (still subject to weather conditions) The final induction ceremony, however, will take place in the second half of August, as reported.

Despite COVID- 19 disruptions deliveries are on track in France, however, the ferry of the first batch to India has been delayed until the end of July 2020. In the interim, on full swing IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft and its technical whereabouts, which include its highly advanced weapon systems and soon to be fully operational and combat.

IAF is quite eager to welcome the new member to its clan. And undoubtedly the RAFALEs are going to increase the capabilities and strengthen our Defence and national security statute at large as an already proven platform. Libya, Iraq, and Syria were all contemporary conflicts wherein these French fighters have been able to earn a name for itself

The French origin Rafale aircraft are highly integrated, agile, and smart air combat systems. Like all modern fighters, it is quite easy to fly. And senior fighter pilots were quite impressed with the man-machine interface and data fusion of these aircraft.

Grp Capt Harkirat and his boys (Indian air warriors) to land the latest big birds of mettle at Ambala, five in all, two twin seaters (RB series) and three single-seaters (BS series). With its immense combat capabilities and ability to integrate with our existing fighter fleets, to have the Rafale(s) on-board will be a very significant enhancement for our air forces’ overall combat potential and associated deterrence value.

An interesting trivia, as shared by a veteran on IAF fighters is that Russian fighters generally come in huge crates and are assembled in India whereas most ‘western’ fighters are flown in, from the OEM country. This, by no means, indicates that the incoming Rafales would be able to take on any offensive action immediately, it would take the IAF a little time before these jets are operationalized. Efforts are being made with full focus on operationalization of these aircraft along with its plethora of weaponry at the earliest.

Rafale’s primary game-changing weapons consist of:

  • METEOR– unrivalled beyond visual range air-to-air missile
  • SCALP– Stealthy deep strike cruise missile
  • MICA – multi-mission air-to-air missile

IAF is also ordering the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire) HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) air-to-ground missiles from France. The order is being processed on an emergency basis. The HAMMER would give India the capability to take out any bunkers or hardened shelters in any type of terrain including the mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh to say.

The AASM HAMMER is a modular weapon, which can be equipped with a variety of guidance modes such as satellite guidance, infra-red seeker, and laser. A HAMMER, can be triggered at ranges of anywhere between 20km to 70km, enabling the launch aircraft to stay out of range of enemy air defences. A Rafale can carry up to six AASM HAMMER weapons of 250kg weight, which can hit six targets simultaneously.

History of 17th squadron ‘Golden Arrows’

  • The 17th squadron was organized in the year 1951.
  • When Mig-21 fighter jets were introduced in the air force, the 17th squadron consisted of these fighter jets that were new to our air force.
  • The 17th squadron was part of the IAF even during the Kargil. Former Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa was commander of the squadron at that time. This was before he took charge as Air Chief Marshal.

(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications)