Updated: September 10, 2020 1:22:51 pm
In a major push to India’s air power capability, five French-made Rafales were inducted into the Indian Air Force’s 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ at Ambala Air Force Station on Thursday. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly watched as the jets flew above the airbase.
Stressing that Rafale jets will be a “game-changer” for India’s national security, Singh said that the induction is important given the “atmosphere being created along the borders.” India and China are engaged in an escalating border row in Ladakh.
“Induction of Rafale jets is an example of India’s commitment to border security and ensuring territorial integrity. National security is a major priority for PM Modi,” he said adding that India needs to prepare itself with the changing times.
Welcoming the jets, the Air Force tweeted, “New bird in the arsenal of IAF.” IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria also stressed that the induction could not have happened a more “opportune time”. Also present at the event were Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.
The Defence Minister said the jets reflect the deep ties between India and France. His French counterpart Parly also seconded him and said the day marks a “new chapter in India-defence ties.” “Today is an achievement for our countries. Together we are writing a new chapter in India-France defence ties. We are fully committed to ‘Make in India’ initiative as well as to the further integration of the Indian manufacturers in our global supply chain,” she said.
A traditional ‘sarva dharma puja’, a ceremonial ‘water cannon salute’ to the Rafale jets and an aerial display featuring various breathtaking manoeuvres by the aircraft marked their induction into the 17 Squadron of the IAF.
Glimpses of the Rafale in action with IAF. pic.twitter.com/WfohU5vMET
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 10, 2020
Apart from Parly, the French delegation included France’s ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain, Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of Air Staff of the French Air Force, among other senior officials, and Eric Trappier, the chief executive of Dassault Aviation, the French company that manufactures Rafale.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The next batch of the jets is likely to arrive in October, and the last of the 36 aircraft will come to India by the end of 2021.
The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach. With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.
India’s last major acquisition of fighter planes was 23 years ago, when the Sukhois were imported from Russia. The IAF is down to 31 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of at least 42.
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