Year 2020: When the Rafale fighters added to India’s firepower in the skies
In the month of July, the Indian Air Force added more firepower in the skies with the induction of the Rafale fighter jets from France. The jets landed at the Air Force base at Ambala in Haryana.
This came at a very crucial time, especially when India continues to be engaged in a tense standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
This had been a long-planned update that the IAF had been looking for and experts have said that the induction of the Rafale fighter jets will be a game-changer for India in the regional politics of South Asia.
Rafale is categorised as a 4.5 generation aircraft due to its radar-evading stealth profile.
This is a significant upgrade for the Indian Air Force as most aircraft in its fleet are the Mirage 200 and Su-30 MKI, which are classified as either third or fourth-generation fighters.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft. It can operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. It has been described as a fully versatile aircraft and can carry out all combat aviation missions. This gives it air superiority apart from the fact it largely enhances air defence. Further, it has the capacity to carry out in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and has nuclear deterrence.
The Rafale has been tailor-made for the IAF and it will be a crucial enhancement to India's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft fleet. There are India specific enhancements such as helmet mount sight, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with enough storage for 10 hours of data, infrared search and track systems, jammers, cold start engine capability, towed decoys to lure incoming missiles away and the ability to operate from high altitude bases.
The first Rafale combat aircraft manufactured for India bears the tail number RB-01, which are the initials of Air Chief Marshal, R K S Bhadauria. The Air Chief had played a crucial role in the signing of the deal worth around Rs 60,000 crore.
India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in September 2016. Out of this 30 would be fighter jets and six would-be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin seaters and will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.
The Rafales are part of the IAF's No 17 Squadron also known as the Golden Arrows. The first squadron of the aircraft is stationed at the Ambala Air Force Station. The second squadron of the Rafale is stationed at the Hasimara base in West Bengal. India is the fourth country to fly the Rafale after France, Egypt and Qatar.
Come April 2021, the Golden Arrows Squadron will be complete with 18 Rafale fighters.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) got its second batch of three to four Rafale fighter jets in the first week of November. By April 2021, 16 omni role Rafale jets will be inducted into the Golden Arrows Squadron.
On September 10, five French-made multirole Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the Indian Air Force in a glittering ceremony at the Ambala air force base.
Three more jets will arrive in January, while another three in March. Seven more would arrive in April and this would take the total number of fighters handed over to the Indian Air Force to 21.
While the Golden Arrows Squadron would be complete with 18 fighters, the remaining three would be sent to the Hashimara airbase in north Bengal's Alipurduar.