In a major boost to air power, India inducts new Rafale jets

With a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’, air display and Sarang aerobatic team’s performance, the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets – which were accorded by a water cannon salute – were formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Ambala Air Force Station in a grand ceremony on Thursday. The jets are now a part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”.

A host of dignitaries attended the induction ceremony including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly along with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hailed “vibrant Defence cooperation” between India and France. “Rafale will strengthen defence ties between India and France. Rafale acquisition is a gamechanger and the induction of the jets is a strong message to the world. It is important for our current regional situation. Our national security is top priority for PM Narendra Modi. And those who tried to stall acquisitions, have failed because of the firm resolve of PM Modi,” he said.

“Our Air Force capabilities will be revolutionized with the induction of Rafale jets. The kind of atmosphere that has been created at the border at the moment, I can safely say the induction of the jets is a step in the right direction when it comes to bolstering national security,” he added.

Describing Rafale induction as a milestone, Rajnath Singh said, “We are committed to liberty, equality and fraternity. Rafale gives IAF a technological edge. Our responsibilities lie beyond our territory. Maritime traffic security is a common challenge. We cannot overlook the possibility of sponsored terrorism and neither can we look away from newer forms of warfare as well.”

Hailing the ” new chapter” in India-France ties, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said, “Rafale means gust of wind or burst of fire. It also symbolises India-France ties. The 36 Rafale jets programme means a lot for us. India has world class capability and incredible sovereign tool. India has an edge over the entire region to defend its people. France is committed to ‘Make in India’ initiative. The Rafale jets are fully combat proven. We are proud to share our knowhow with you since our friendship is rock solid and is based on deep trust.”

The Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the 17 Squadron of the IAF which was resurrected on September 10 last year. The squadron was originally raised at Air Force Station, Ambala on October 1, 1951. The 17 Squadron has many firsts to its credit. In 1955, it was equipped with the first jet fighter, the legendary De Havilland Vampire.

Hailing this “timely induction”, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria thanked the French authorities for their support including French Defence Minister Florence Parly.

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The formal induction of the Rafale fighter jets come at a time when India is engaged in a bitter conflict with China for several months along the Ladakh border.  The Rafale jets, produced by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are known for air-superiority and precision strikes.

India has signed a Rs 59,000 crore deal with France for 36 Rafale jets.

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