Deployment of Rafales on the eastern front with China is expected to boost capabilities of the Indian Air Force's capabilities further

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has raised the second Rafale squadron, the '101 Falcons of Chhamb and Akhnoor' at Ambala ahead of their formal induction at the Hasimara airbase in West Bengal, The Times of India reported.

The second Rafale squadron at Hasimara is meant to counter threats on the eastern front with China. Rafales’ deployment on the eastern front is expected to boost capabilities of the IAF, which has already placed multirole air superiority fighter Sukhoi-30MKIs at Tezpur and Chabua.

The 101 squadron participated in the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, and was operational till 2011. It has now been resurrected.

While the first squadron – the '17 Golden Arrows' – is fully operational at Ambala with 18 Rafale fighter jets, the second squadron currently has five jets, the news report suggested citing persons aware of the development. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. The remaining 13 Rafales are expected to arrive in batches before April 2022.

The formal induction ceremony of the second Rafale squadron has been reportedly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is likely to happen within a month. Group Captain Neeraj Jhamb is the commanding officer of the 101 squadron.

The air force has to upgrade hangers, shelters and other maintenance facilities at the Hasimara airbase to house the Rafales. The airbase is strategically located close to the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, 2020, 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 formal induction ceremony of the fleet had taken place at Ambala on September 10, 2020.

While a second batch arrived in India on November 3, 2020, the third batch of three more jets joined the IAF on January 27, 2021.

The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The Rafales are capable of carrying a number of weapons including European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system.

The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafales.