Rafale lands in India: Modi says 'welcome', Rajnath tweets 'birds have safely landed' as five Dassault jets reach Ambala

The Rafale jets landed at the Ambala Air Force base after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.

FP Staff July 29, 2020 16:40:25 IST
Rafale lands in India: Modi says 'welcome', Rajnath tweets 'birds have safely landed' as five Dassault jets reach Ambala

Nearly 23 years after Sukhoi aircraft were imported, a fleet of five French-manufactured Rafale multi-role combat jets touched down in India, giving the country's air power a strategic edge over its adversaries in the neighbourhood.

The aircraft, considered one of the most potent combat jets globally, landed at the Ambala Air Force base after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted-

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's office informed the public about the above update via Twitter. "The Birds have landed safely in Ambala.
The touch down of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the @IAF_MCC," a tweet from Raksha Mantri Karyalay said.

Singh also tweeted a video of the jets flying in a flying V formation as they entered the Indian air space.

Singh said the Rafales were escorted by two Sukhoi 30 MKIs after they entered the Indian air space. The jets were also refulled mid-air from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet.

The fleet landed at Al Dhafra airbase on Monday in the UAE after flying for over seven hours from the Merignac airbase. It was the only stopover by the jets while flying from France to India.

The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades, and they are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities.  The NDA government had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on 23 September, 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.

The emergency acquisition was made primarily to check the depleting combat capability of the IAF as the number of its fighter squadrons had come down to a worrying 31 against the authorised strength of at least 42.

The current fleet which was handed over to India comprises three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft.

Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders near the Ambala Air Force Station, banning shooting of videos and photography.

The Ambala district administration has also prohibited people from flying private drones within the three-km radius of the air base, officials said earlier.

Section 144, which prohibits assembly of four or more people, has been imposed in the villages adjoining the air base, including Dhulkot, Baldev Nagar, Garnala and Panjkhora.

Ambala deputy commissioner Ashok Kumar Sharma said shooting of videos or taking photographs of the boundary wall of the air base and its adjoining areas will remain strictly prohibited during the imposition of the prohibitory orders.

Meanwhile, the Haryana Police has set up several check barricades and police officers were seen patrolling residential localities near the air base, making announcements over loudspeakers warning people not to stand on the rooftop of their houses to click pictures or shoot videos. Violators would face punishment as per the law, they warned.

At many places in Ambala, hoardings have been erected to welcome the arrival of the fighter jets with some of these mentioning that their induction will further boost IAF's capabilities.

Nearly four years ago, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets under a Rs 59,000-crore deal to boost the IAF's combat capabilities.

The five Rafales are scheduled to be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday, though a formal induction ceremony would be held later.

The jets will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the 'Golden Arrows'. The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons.

The IAF is also procuring new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets. Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran. The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.

European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets. Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.

The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. The Meteor is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.

Of the 36 jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.

While the first squadron of the Rafale jets will be stationed at Ambala airbase, the second one will based at Hasimara base in West Bengal.

The IAF has undertaken major infrastructure upgrades at the two bases, spending around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities. The Ambala base is considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF as the India-Pakistan border is around 220 kilometre from it.

Built in 1948, the air base is located on the east side of Ambala and is used for military and government flights. The air base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 'Bison'. Air Force Marshal Arjan Singh was the first commander of the base. The Mirage fighters that were used for the air strike in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019 after the Pulwama terror attack had taken off from here.

With inputs from PTI

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