It is a very important step in the light of prevailing security conditions, said Rajnath.
Calling the induction of the Rafale fighter jet into the Indian Air Force (IAF) a “game changer”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that it was a very important step in the light of the prevailing security conditions that “have been created along India’s borders.”
“The IAF plays an important role in maintaining military deterrence and their actions will be decisive in any future war. While the prevailing situation on our boundaries has caught our attention, we should not ignore the threat of cross-border terrorism,” Mr. Singh said at a formal induction ceremony at Ambala air base.
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“India’s responsibilities are not limited to land borders alone and in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region, we are committed to world peace and committed to work with international community to this end,” Mr. Singh said, while stating that vigilance was the first measure of security on the northern borders amid current security challenges.
Five Rafale jets were inducted into the No. 17 Golden Arrows squadron. This is the first imported fighter to be inducted since the Sukhoi-30s from Russia in the late 90s. The induction could not have happened at a more opportune time, given the security challenges, said Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria, in a reference to the ongoing standoff with China along the disputed boundary in Ladakh.
“The induction also marks the operational induction of Rafale into the IAF,” he said and pointed out the pilots had undergone intense combat training with other aircraft and also firing of advanced weaponry. From Ambala air base, Rafales will be able to rapidly access our areas of interest, he added.
A traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’ was performed, followed by an air display by Rafale and indigenous Tejas aircraft as well as by the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team. A traditional water cannon salute was given to the Rafale aircraft before the formal induction of the jets.
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The five IAF Rafale aircraft arrived at Air Force Station, Ambala, from France in July-end. The jets were handed over to India in France last October but have since been used for training IAF pilots there.
In strategic terms, India will have an edge over the entire region with the induction of Rafale jets, said French Defence Minister Florence Parly, who was present at the induction.
The five jets, three single-seat and two twin-seater trainers, were flown from France by IAF pilots led by Commanding Officer of No. 17 squadron Group Captain Harkirat Singh. The Rafale jets give a major capability boost to the IAF amid falling squadron strength. Upon India’s request, France has speeded up deliveries of Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile missiles along with the first batch of jets. The second batch of four Rafale jets are expected to arrive in October.
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The five Rafales are part of the €7.87-billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE).
The Rafale was originally selected under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender issued in 2007 but the final deal got stuck due to differences and the tender was eventually withdrawn after the emergency purchase announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015, citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.
The ISE include Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search and tracking systems among others. In addition, the Rafale is armed with the meteor missile — considered a game changer in the region — with a range of over 150 km, SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles. The IAF is also arming the Rafale with HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) medium-range air-to-ground missiles being procured through emergency route.
The Ambala air base also houses two squadrons of the Jaguar fighters and one squadron of MIG-21 Bison. Hasimara in West Bengal will house the second Rafale squadron in future.