Today India welcomed Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Jet which is a 4.5 generation fighter jet to its shore as it touched down at its airbase in Ambala. Thus it also became the first western jet since Sukhoi 30 MKI to be inducted into the Indian Air Force since the last 25 years. The jets will join the No. 17 squadron of the Indian Airforce which is also known as the “Golden Arrows”. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that the "birds" had landed safely in Ambala.
The jets stopped at Al Dhafra in UAE at an air base of France. As they took off from UAE, the Rafales made contact with Indian Navy warship INS Kolkata in the Western Arabian Sea. The naval warship replied, “Welcome to the Indian Ocean... May you touch the sky with glory”. The Ambala air base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 Bison. The Mirage fighters that were used for India's air strike in Balakot in Pakistan last year after the Pulwama terror attack took off from there. Now it will also be the home for the newly inducted Rafale from France.
India received its first batch of 5 Rafale Jets out of contracted 36 jets, which includes 3 single seat jets and 2 twin seat jets. The jets will be stationed at the Ambala Air Force Station. Rafale is a twin engine multi role combat aircraft. The jet has a top speed of 2223 km/hr, maximum weight of 24,500 kg. and a range of 3700km. The jet has a load carrying capacity of 9500 kg.
The aircraft is capable of ground support, aerial reconnaissance, in depth strikes in the enemy territory, interception and also provides nuclear deterrence. The jet is equipped with Meteor, a beyond visual range air-to-air missile, while Scalp cruise missile acts as a mainstay of the aircraft. The weapons are developed by European missile maker MBDA. The missiles are powered by a unique rocket ramjet motor engine which gives it far more engine power.
Besides the advanced missile systems, the aircraft comes with some India specific modifications. Rafale comes with Israeli helmet mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10 hour flight data recording, Infra-red search tracking systems. On September 2016, India ordered a total of 36 Rafale jets from France for a sum of Rs. 59,000 CR. India received its first Rafale in France on October 8, 2019, however kept it there for training purposes.
Group Captain Harkirat Singh will be the first commanding officer of the 17 Squadron Golden Arrows of the Rafale fighter jet. The others who will accompany Singh will be Wing Commanders MK Singh, R Kataria, Sidhu and Arun. Singh was honoured with Shaurya Chakra, the third-most peacetime gallantry award after Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra. He comes from a family of servicemen. The citation that was presented to Singh on 15 August 2009 reads, Squadron Leader Harkirat Singh displayed exceptional courage in successfully handling the emergency".