A formal induction ceremony of the five high-profile Rafale fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force's (IAF) 17 Squadron, the 'Golden Arrows', will be held at the Ambala airbase in Haryana on Thursday. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly will be the chief guests for the event. The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades.
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.
A tentative schedule for the induction ceremony said that the event will start at 8 am and conclude post noon. At 8 am, the entry will be opened. The induction ceremony will take place from 10 am to 11.45 am. From 12 noon to 1 pm, Union Defence Minister and his French counterpart will address a press briefing which will be followed by lunch.
Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Singh said, "At 10.00 AM tomorrow, Rafale aircraft will be formally inducted into IAF at the Air Force Station in Ambala. The aircraft will be part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”. The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades."
At 10.00 AM tomorrow, #Rafale aircraft will be formally inducted into @IAF_MCC at the Air Force Station in Ambala. The aircraft will be part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”. The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 9, 2020
An official statement of the IAF read, "At Ambala, the event will include the ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’, Air Display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as by ‘Sarang Aerobatic Team’. Afterwards, a traditional water cannon salute will be given to the Rafale aircraft. The programme will culminate with the ceremonial induction of Rafale aircraft to 17 Squadron."
After the ceremonial events, the Indian and French delegation will have a bilateral meeting, read the statement. Other than having a bilateral meeting with Rajnath Singh, Parly will also meet National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, sources had said earlier. 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 statement also said that Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO Dr G Satheesh Reddy along with other senior officers of Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces will be present to mark a very important milestone in the history of the IAF.
The French delegation will be represented by Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain, Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of the Air Staff of the French Air Force and other senior officials. A large delegation of senior functionaries of French Defence Industries which includes Eric Trappier Chairman and Chief Executive of Dassault Aviation and Eric Beranger, CEO, MBDA will be present during the ceremony.
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.