New Delhi: The Indian Air Force formally inducted the omni-role Rafale combat jet, widely described as a “game changer”, into No. 101 Squadron at Air Force Station Hasimara in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on July 28. This is the second squadron to induct the jets.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, the Chief of the Air Staff, presided over the induction ceremony. On arrival, CAS was received by Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command. The event also included a fly-past heralding the arrival of Rafale aircraft to Hasimara followed by a traditional water cannon salute.
Addressing the personnel during the induction ceremony, CAS said that the induction of Rafale had been carefully planned at Hasimara; keeping in mind the importance of strengthening IAF’s capability in the Eastern Sector.
Recalling the glorious history of 101 Squadron which bestowed upon them the title of ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor’, CAS urged the personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He said that he had no doubt that the Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.
The Squadron was formed on May 1, 1949 at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this Squadron includes active participation in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.
The induction comes almost a year after the IAF operationalised its first squadron of Rafale jets. The induction was made possible with the arrival of three more jets, raising to 26 the 36 planes ordered from the French Dassault Aviation in a Rs 59,000 crore ($9 billion).
The remaining 10 jets are likely to arrive by the end of the year. Of the 36 jets, 30 are fighters and six are trainers.
The first five Rafales had arrived at the frontline Ambala Air Base in north India on July 29, 2020 and were inducted into the IAF – in the No. 17 Squadron, Golden Arrows – by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on September 10 at a ceremony also attended by his French counterpart, Florence Parley. Since then, the remaining jets have been arriving in batches.
“It’s a game-changer and a lesson to our neighbours for the situation they have created on the borders,” Rajnath Singh had declared, terming the induction of the first five jets as a “historic occasion and a matter of pride” for the country.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, the host for the event, said the aircraft have been operational ever since their landing at Ambala and that the induction of Rafales could not have come at a more appropriate time, given the scenario on the borders with tension along both the LAC (Line of Actual Control) with China in Ladakh and on the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan in the West.
A 4.5 generation plus, aircraft, the Rafale is armed with beyond visual range missiles like the Meteor, SCALP and MICA, greatly enhancing its capabilities.
Rafale is described by Dassault as an omni-role aircraft, capable of swing roles from Air-to-Air or Air-to-Ground strikes in a single mission. The Rafale is also capable of nuclear strikes and shipboard missions from aircraft carriers.
The IAF had initiated an exercise for acquiring 126 MMRCAs (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) in 2007 – the bulk of which were to be manufactured in India under a Transfer of Technology agreement – and selected the Rafale from among six contenders. However, no deal could be made as somehow, a clause came up that while Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) would be responsible for integrating and manufacturing 70 per cent of the aircraft at its facilities in India, the responsibility for the quality of production at HAL would be that of the French supplier.
Dassault refused, saying: You make it, you are responsible.
Later, in 2015, Prime Minister Modi’s government rightly cancelled that stalled process, and as the IAF was rapidly falling short of aircraft, decided to acquire 36 Rafales, or two squadrons of 18 each, under a Government-to-Government deal.
The IAF has, meanwhile, a second tender now in place for 114 MMRCAs, single or twin engine, as in the 2007 tender. The IAF needs a combination of 400 aircraft, in a rough ratio of 70:30 for single and twin engines.
Except for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which came in the 1990s, all IAF aircraft are of 1980s vintage, although upgraded. Rafale is the most modern, and contemporary aircraft now in IAF’s inventory.