New Delhi: After a much-debated wait, India on Thursday inducted the first five Rafale jet aircraft as part of the 17 Squadron, that goes by the sobriquet ‘Golden Arrows’. The grand ceremony was held at the Ambala Air Force base at 10 AM Thursday.Also Read - France Suspends 3,000 Health Workers Without Pay After They Failed to Get Vaccinated Within Deadline
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was present at the inauguration alongside his French counterpart Florence Parly. Another galaxy of dignitaries including Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, French Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain, Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of Air Staff of the French Air Force, and Eric Trappier, the chief executive of Dassault Aviation – the French maker of Rafale – were among other senior officials who attended the programme. Also Read - PM Modi Inaugurates Defence Offices Complexes in Delhi. See PICS Here
“At 10.00 AM tomorrow, Rafale aircraft will be formally inducted into Indian Air Force at the Air Force Station in Ambala. The aircraft will be part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”. The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh wrote on Twitter. Also Read - Ease Travel Restrictions: India Urges Australia to Address Difficulties Being Faced by Its Students
The induction programme will include the ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’, air display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as Sarang aerobatic team, followed by a traditional water cannon salute will be given to the Rafale aircraft.
Following the ceremony, the two defence ministers will hold bilateral discussions, while Parly will meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval subsequently.
The five Rafale jets are a part of the batch of 36 aircraft that India bought off-the-shelf from France in an inter-government deal in September 2016.
The contract, that costed Rs 59,000 crore, was mired in political controversy as opposition parties and key stakeholders questioned the process by which the government struck the deal, given the pricing and choice of India’s offset partner – debt-ridden Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
The first five Rafale aircraft had arrived in Ambala from France on July 27, 2020. The jets flew from the Merignac airbase in the port city of Bordeaux and landed for a stopover at Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km. A day later, they flew again and landed at the Ambala airbase.
A 4.5 generation aircraft with latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture, Rafale is expected to be a game-changer amid the border strife between India and China in eastern Ladakh. The aircraft will increase India’s air power manifold.
They are also India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.