Ambala: Five French-made multirole Rafale jets were inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday at a glittering ceremony in Ambala, in a major boost to the country's air power at a time it is engaged in an escalating border dispute with China.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the induction was crucial considering the atmosphere being created along the frontier and called it is a "big and stern" message to those eyeing India's sovereignty. Singh said Rafale is considered one of the best combat aircraft globally and the deal to procure the jets was a "game changer" for India's national security.
A traditional 'sarva dharma puja', a ceremonial water cannon salute to the Rafale fighter jets and an aerial drill featuring breathtaking manoeuvres by the aircraft marked their induction into the IAF's 'Golden Arrows' squadron at the Ambala Air Force station. Besides Singh, the ceremony was attended by French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria and top executives of major French defence firms involved in the Rafale deal.
Bhadauria said the Golden Arrows squadron has already flown the aircraft and undergone intense integrated training with other combat fleets, including firing advanced weapons. "So this formal induction today also marks the operational induction of this aircraft into the IAF. We are good to go and deliver," he said.
In her address, Parly said France is fully committed to integrate the Indian defence industry with France's global military supply chain, and called Rafale's induction into the IAF a new chapter in bilateral defence ties. She said India will have an edge over the entire region to defend its people with the induction of the fighter jets. At the ceremony, a fleet of indigenously developed combat jets Tejas, and the Sarang helicopter aerobatic team too displayed a range of aerial manoeuvres.
In a tweet, the IAF welcomed the "new bird" into its arsenal. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an intergovernmental agreement with France to procure 36 of them at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
Second batch in November:
· French-made Rafale jets known for air-superiority and precision strikes
· First major acquisition of fighter planes after in 23 years after Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia
· Capable of a range of potent weapons; MBDA's Meteor and Scalp cruise missile key arsenals
· Five more jets held back in France for training of IAF pilots; likely to arrive by November
· Delivery of all 36 likely by end of 2021; 30 will be fighter jets and six trainers