Rafale makes history as the first imported fighter jet to be introduced in the army since the late 90s when Sukhoi-30s were imported from Russia.
46 months after the deal of €7.87 billion was made, five Rafale fighter jets made it to the Ambala airbase on the afternoon of July 29, 2020. This event took place with the attendance of the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria.
“The touchdown of Rafale combat aircraft in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircraft will revolutionalize the capabilities of the IAF,” noted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a series of posts on Twitter.
“The Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF,” he observed. “I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the IAF, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity”, he noted.
The fighter boasts a good flying performance. Its weapons, radar, and other sensors as well as its Electronic Warfare strengths stand out to be amid the best on earth. “Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country,” he said.
As soon as the jets reached the Indian Ocean, lead ship of the Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyers INS Kolkata got in touch and wished them happy landing. Following this, they were accompanied by 2 Su-30MKI fighters as they got into the Indian air space. When the Rafales landed at Ambala, they were adorned with a water cannon salute.
The five Rafale jets, comprising of three one-seat and two 2-seat trainers, were brought from France by IAF pilots. The unit had Commanding Officer of No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron Group, Captain Harkirat Singh, as their leader. The jets stopped at Al Dafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were assisted by French Air Force mid-air refuellers during the 7000 km journey’s first part.
IAF pilots and technicians have undergone rigorous training already on the jets in France. This was done as part of the contractual obligations. The training is bound to continue in the same country for another nine months.
The Rafale is to give a boost in capability to the Air Force with its armaments. It has landed at a good time given the agitation with China due to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
In September 2016, India signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the country of France for 36 Rafale multirole fighter jets in fly-away condition with 13 India specific enhancements. This was following a surprise announcement by Mr. Narendra Modi in April 2015 with the reason, “critical operational necessity” of the IAF. The Rafale was chosen initially under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender but the tender was revoked following the emergency purchase declaration by the Prime Minister.
Heavy security was in order, Section 144 was imposed, large gatherings were banned in four villages nearby for the historic touchdown. People were asked not to gather on rooftops and filming or photography was banned.