IAF gets Rafale boost amid India-China standoff

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly and India's top military brass attended a ceremony in Ambala airbase on Thursday to formally induct five Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force.

Talks between Rajnath Singh and Florence Parly

Parly and Singh held talks in Ambala on ways to further deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation after the ceremony. The French defence minister is scheduled to arrive Thursday morning and will depart late afternoon, the officials said.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.


Rafale vs China

Rajnath Singh had earlier said the new French Rafale jets were "strong message" amid an escalating border row with China. The first five of a $9.4-billion order for 36 Rafale aircraft formally entered service following a ceremony in Ambala in northern India in September.

Amid tensions along the LAC, India has embarked on a $130-billion modernisation of its armed forces including ordering attack helicopters from the United States and a missile defence system from Russia.


Water cannon salute

"Rafale induction is a big and stern message for the entire world, especially to those eyeing our sovereignty. This induction is important considering the kind of atmosphere at our borders or should I say the kind of atmosphere created at our borders," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.


Rafale officially inducted

Rafale Fighter Jets Induction Ceremony - French Defence Minister Florence Parly visited India on September 10 to attend a ceremony to formally induct five Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force (IAF).

IAF had proposed September 10 to hold the ceremony, adding both the Indian and French sides are in touch with each other for the possible visit by Parly.


Ambala air base & Hasimara base in West Bengal

Rafale Fighter Jets Ambala - The first batch of five Rafale combat jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived at the Ambala air base on July 29. The jets are yet to be formally inducted into the IAF.

Sources said the Defence Minister, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and the entire top military brass of the country will attend the event at the Ambala air base.

Out of the 36 Rafale 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 the Ambala air base, the second one will be based at the Hasimara base in West Bengal.


Rafale fighter jet in India

File image


Refuel midair several times on the way

The five planes landed at the Ambala air base in northern India, some 200 kilometres from the Pakistani and Chinese borders. It refueled midair several times on the way and also made a stopover in Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where France has an air base.

Delivery of the Rafale jets -- 36 of which were ordered by India in September 2016 -- officially began in October but the planes stayed in France for training of the pilots and mechanics.


The gamechanger

The delivery should be completed by 2022. India has been eager to update its ageing fighter jet force amid tensions with China.


'Efforts will focus on operationalisation'

The IAF had said that once the planes arrive in India "efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest."


Air-to-ground strikes

With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, the combat aircraft can reach maximum speeds of 750 knots.

It can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.

The mission system of the Rafale has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.



The supersonic fighter jet has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air 'Beyond Visual Range' (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER -- Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range -- modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and "specifics armaments" selected by some clients.


India moves closer to West to counter China

Even before relations with China nosedived, India was moving strategically closer to the West, deepening security cooperation with the United States, Japan and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region.

It has also embarked on a $130-billion modernisation of its armed forces -- including ordering attack helicopters from the United States and a missile defence system from Russia.



Indian Air Force's combat squadrons

Indian Air Force Rafale Fighter Jets - India's defence ministry had earlier signed off on the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 others worth $2.4 billion. The purchase of 21 MiG-29 and 12 SU-30 MKI, as well as upgrades to 59 existing MiG-29s, was to "augment" the Indian Air Force's combat squadrons.

New and additional missile systems to be manufactured in India were also commissioned for all three branches of the military. In 2018, the two nations signed an accord for Moscow to supply its S-400 missile system in a deal worth $5.4 billion despite the threat of US sanctions.


Delivery to be completed by 2021

 The delivery of all 36 aircraft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.


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