The Indian Air Force is all set to formally induct its latest Rafale fighter jets at the Ambala airbase on Thursday in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh, officials said Wednesday. French defence minister Florence Parly and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will attend the ceremony, they added. The two ministers are likely to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the event, the officials said.
Here are five things you should know about India’s latest warplanes
1. Five of the 36 Rafales ordered by the IAF arrived at the Ambala airbase on July 29. India had ordered the jets from France in a government-to-government deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. While the air chief and other IAF officials welcomed the Rafales and the pilots on arrival, a formal induction ceremony is being held on September 10. These Rafale jets are part of the IAF’s No. 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘Golden Arrows’.
2. The next batch comprising three or four Rafale jets is expected to reach Ambala from France in October, followed by a third batch in December, the officials said. All deliveries will be completed by the end of 2021.
3. India’s new Rafale fighters will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of the air force with their advanced weaponry, high-tech sensors, superior radar for detection and tracking of targets and ability to carry an impressive payload, experts said.
4. The Rafale weaponry includes Meteor, beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, Mica, multi-mission air-to-air missiles, and Scalp, deep-strike cruise missiles—weapons that allow fighter pilots to attack air and ground targets from standoff ranges and fill a significant capability gap.
5. Officials said the IAF could deploy its new Rafale fighters in the Ladakh sector as part of India’s overarching plan to strengthen its military posture in the region, where Indian and Chinese forces are locked in a tense border confrontation and military friction has grown in recent weeks.