The five Rafale fighter jets that land in Ambala on Wednesday morning will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force. It will take the IAF’s squadron strength to 31. When all the 36 Rafale jets are delivered by 2022, it will take it to 32 squadrons, still well below the 42 squadrons of the sanctioned strength.
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.
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria is at the strategically key Ambala air base to receive the Rafale jets, India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades. A Rs 59,000-crore deal was signed on September 23, 2016 for 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Following testing, the five Rafale aircraft are, reportedly, set to be immediately deployed near the border in Eastern Ladakh, as both, China and India continue disengagement procedures at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Tensions between the two nations have escalated in recent months culminating in a brutal clash at Galwan Valley in mid-June that claimed the lives of 20 Indian Army personnel. Given the precarious nature of Sino-Indian ties, the induction of the Rafale aircraft into the IAF could not have come at a better moment.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The fully versatile Rafale is able to carry out all combat aviation missions: air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.