In a direct reference to the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the induction of five French-made Rafales is a big and stern message for the entire world, “especially to those eyeing our sovereignty”. The five jets were inducted into the Indian Air Force’s 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ at Ambala Air Force Station on Thursday

“This induction is important considering the kind of atmosphere at our borders or should I say the kind of atmosphere created at our borders,” Rajnath said at the ceremony which was also attended by his French counterpart Florence Parly.

“In my recent foreign trip, I put India’s point of view in front of the world. I also made everyone aware of our resolve to not compromise our sovereignty and territorial integrity under any circumstances. We’re committed to doing everything possible towards this,” the defence minister said.

Complimenting the IAF over its deployment during the current standoff in Ladakh, Singh said, “the speed at which IAF deployed its assets at forward bases creates confidence that our Air Force is fully prepared to fulfil its operational obligations”.

Rajnath went on to say that the motive behind India’s strengthening of defence capabilities has always been the desire for world peace. “Our country will not take any such step which can disturb the peace anywhere. We expect the same from our neighbours, and the rest of the world,” he said. He emphasised that India’s responsibilities are not just restricted to its borders, but we play a responsible role in the entire Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region.

Speaking on the occasion, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said the jets were “good to go and deliver”. “Golden Arrows are singularly blessed to be equipped with Rafale. Squadron has undergone intense integrated training with aircraft of other fleets. They are good to go and deliver,” said the air chief.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of Armed Forces of France Florence Parly at the Rafale induction ceremony in Ambala

“This induction could not have happened at a more opportune time considering the security scenario today. Induction of Rafale in Ambala important as fleet can rapidly access all areas of interest from the airbase.” he added. Welcoming the jets, the Air Force tweeted, “New bird in the arsenal of IAF.” Also present at the event were Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.

Speaking on the occasion French Defence Minister Florence Parly said, “The India-France friendship is rock solid and is time-tested. It based on commonality and trust… Today I warmly congratulate all the people on both sides who put in their heart and soul into making the induction ceremony possible,”. The French defence minister said Make in India has been a reality for French industries for several years, particularly for defence equipment. “But this is not only military or industrial project. There is a bubble of friendship,” she said.

The induction ceremony included an all faith prayer meeting and the traditional welcome accorded to the aircraft through a water cannon salute. An air display was also performed by the Rafale aircraft as well as Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. The Sarang Helicopter Display team also put up an airshow.

Apart from Parly, the French delegation included France’s ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain, Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of Air Staff of the French Air Force, among other senior officials, and Eric Trappier, the chief executive of Dassault Aviation, the French company that manufactures Rafale.

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. The next batch of the jets is likely to arrive in October, and the last of the 36 aircraft will come to India by the end of 2021.

IAF has formally inducted the #Rafale aircraft in 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ today, at Air Force Station, Ambala. The ceremony also marks #Rafale’s full operational entry into IAF.
Glimpses of the Rafale in action with IAF.
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) September 10, 2020

The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach. With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.

India’s last major acquisition of fighter planes was 23 years ago, when the Sukhois were imported from Russia. The IAF is down to 31 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of at least 42.