As the first batch of five Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale fighter jets landed in Ambala air base on July 29. A formal induction ceremony of Rafale aircraft in 17 Squadron is scheduled to be held in the second half of Aug 2020. Details of the ceremony will be intimated in due course. Meanwhile, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh in a series of tweets welcomed these by saying, “The Birds have entered the Indian airspace. Happy Landing in Ambala!” He congratulated Indian Air Force (IAF) on professionally executed ferry and stated that, “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.”
Further, “The touch down of Rafale combat aircraft in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircraft will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF,” he stated in another tweet on July 29. Highlighting the capabilities of the aircraft, he asserted that, “This 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 thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his right decision. “The Rafale jets were purchased only because PM Narendra Modi took the right decision to get these aircraft through an Inter-Governmental Agreement with France, after the long pending procurement case for them could not progress.” He 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 COVID pandemic.
“The Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF. The baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled.” Raksha Mantri 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.” Also, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has heralded the touchdown of Rafale fighter jets on Indian soil as a “game changer”. “Rafale touchdown is a historic day for our vigorous Indian Air Force and a proud moment for India!” He added.
Calling it a momentous day for the entire country, the Union Home Minister stated that, “Induction of these next generation aircrafts is a true testimony of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resolve to make India a powerful and secure nation. Modi Government is committed to build on India’s defence capabilities.” “These are the world’s most powerful machines capable to thwart any challenge in the sky,” the Union Home Minister asserted.
Earlier, Captain of the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kolkata welcomed Rafale Arrow Leader in the Indian Ocean by saying, “May you touch the sky with glory.” The five Rafale aircraft escorted by two SU30 MKIs as they entered Indian airspace. The NDA government had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.
A government statement on July 27 stated 10 Rafale jets were delivered to India and that five of them are staying back in France for training missions. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021. It is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
Despite all of this, The ferry was planned in two stages and was undertaken by IAF pilots. The aircraft covered a distance of nearly 8500 km from France to India. First stage of the flight covered a distance of 5800 km in seven and a half hours. French Air Force (FAF) Tanker provided dedicated Air-to-Air Refuelling support during the flight. The second stage of the flight covering over 2700 km was carried out with Air-to-Air Refuelling by IAF Tanker. However, IAF deeply appreciates the proactive support provided by the French Government and Industry in France to ensure timely delivery.