A formal induction ceremony of the five high-profile Rafale fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force's (IAF) 'Golden Arrows' Squadron will be held at the Ambala airbase in Haryana on September 10. Earlier, sources had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is most likely to attend the ceremony.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly will take part in the induction ceremony and during the visit, other than having a bilateral with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, she will also meet National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.
The first batch of five Rafale jets, which arrived at the Ambala airbase on July 29, have already proven their mettle with successful weapons firing at a test range after arrival. When the first batch of Rafales arrived at Ambala, the IAF had said that efforts are focused on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.
After the ceremony, the French side is also likely to raise the possibility of a larger order for the Rafale fighter jets under the 'Make in India' initiative, sources had said.
The first batch of five incoming Rafale fighter jets landed at the Ambala Air Force base around 3.14 PM on July 29, 2020, amid a ceremonial welcome and unprecedented security. The squadron of Rafale jets has been stationed at the Ambala airbase in Haryana. The fleet of five jets comprises three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft.
The jets will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No. 17 Squadron, also known as the 'Golden Arrows'.
Nearly four years ago, India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets under a Rs 59,000-crore deal to boost the IAF's combat capabilities.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
Of the 36 jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets. The IAF has undertaken major infrastructure upgrades at the Ambala base for the deployment of the first Rafale squadron.
Built in 1948, the airbase is located on the east side of Ambala and is used for military and government flights. The airbase has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 'Bison'. Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh was the first commander of the base.
The Mirage fighters that were used for the airstrike in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019 after the Pulwama terror attack had taken off from Ambala.
The Rafale aircraft will give India a strategic advantage in case of any aerial combat with China in the mountainous Tibet region as the fleet will be able to use the terrain to its advantage, destroy enemy air defence and incapacitate the surface-to-air missiles, former Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (retd) BS Dhanoa had said to news agency PTI in August.
Dhanoa, known as the architect of the Balakot strikes, had said the Rafale jets along with S-400 missile systems will give the Indian Air Force a major combat edge in the entire region and that India's adversaries will think twice before starting a war with it.
In case of Pakistan, he had said the purpose of the S-400 and Rafale is to hit Pakistani aircraft inside Pakistani air space and not when they come inside Indian territory, adding the neighbouring country would not have responded on February 27, 2019, to the Balakot air strikes if India had the French-manufactured jets then.
In an interview to PTI, Dhanoa had said the Rafale, with its fantastic electronic warfare suite and manoeuvrability, will be able to use mountainous terrain in Tibet to its advantage and blind the enemy before India's strike aircraft penetrate hostile airspace to carry out their missions.