The induction programme included ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional sarva dharma puja, an air display by Rafale, Jaguar and Tejas aircraft as well as by the Sarang aerobatic team
Five French-made multirole Rafale jets that had arrived in India on July 29, 2020, were inducted into the Indian Air Force’s “Golden Arrows” Squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station on Thursday. The induction ceremony was conducted on September 10, 2020 at the country’s oldest Air Force base built in 1919 and was graced by the Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh, accompanied by Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria. The Chief Guest for the ceremony was France’s Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly.
The Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO, Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, former Air Force Chief B.S. Dhanoa along with other senior officers of Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Armed Forces were present to mark this important milestone in the history of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The French delegation was represented by Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of the Air Staff of the French Air Force and other senior officials. A large delegation of senior functionaries of French Defence Industries which included Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive of Dassault Aviation and Eric Beranger, CEO, MBDA were also present during the ceremony.
Prior to the ceremony, IAF had tweeted, “New bird in the arsenal of IAF”, indicating that it would formally be inducting the Rafale aircraft in the 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ at Air Force Station, Ambala.
The programme started with the ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft followed by a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’.
The unveiling was followed by an astounding air display that featured one of IAF’s new Rafales, two Jaguars and two Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs that performed a flypast in the ‘arrow’ formation, apart from the sorties performed by the Tejas aircraft and the aerobatic manoeuvres by ‘Sarang Aerobatic Team’ including the special ‘Rafale Sweep’ prepared for the occasion. Post the flypast, a traditional water cannon salute was given to the Rafale aircraft.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria then welcomed the guests and addressed the gathering. He stated that the induction could not have happened at a more opportune time considering the security scenario today.
“While Ambala is the oldest air force station of the country, it will now be home to the newest aircraft of the country. We are adding a new chapter in Ambala’s and the Indian Air Force’s glorious history by resurrecting the Golden Arrows. The full range of mission and the capability enhancement that this aircraft brings to the IAF is far more impressive than the manoeuvres we saw it performing today,” Bhadauria stated. He also highlighted that this moment is the result of government’s persistent efforts and the Defence Ministry’s prompt response.
This day also marks operational induction of this aircraft into the IAF, we are good to go and deliver, added the Air Chief Marshal.
His remarks were followed by that of the Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh who called it a significant and historic day.
“Rafale induction is a big and stern message to those eyeing our sovereignty.”
—Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of India
“Today we are writing a new chapter in India- France defence ties.”
—Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces
“The capability enhancement that this aircraft brings to the IAF is far more impressive.”
—Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Indian Air Force
As he welcomed his French counterpart on behalf of the country, he also highlighted the strategic partnership of both the countries and the value that this day adds to it. “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,” Singh said during his address. The induction of Rafale into IAF also represents the strong ties between India and France and this further strengthens the strategic ties between the two countries, the Defence Minister stated.
Speaking about the aircraft he said, “Rafale with its multi role capabilities can perform a variety of tasks including air superiority missions and precision strikes against enemies. I am confident that the capabilities and technological edge acquired with Rafale induction will revolutionise the IAF capabilities.” He also mentioned that 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.
The Minister also highlighted that India’s responsibilities are not just restricted to the nation’s borders, but the country plays a responsible role in the entire Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region.
“In my recent foreign trip, I put the point of view of India 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. I feel proud to say that our national security has been a topmost priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many obstacles came in the way of finding the air power that we are able to witness with our eyes today. But we were able to overcome those obstacles,” Singh said.
He also urged to invite the partner country France to invest in the Indian defence sector. “Responding to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ call by our Prime Minister Modi, the Government has taken several progressive and positive steps in this direction.”
“This induction is important considering the kind of atmosphere at our borders. The induction of Rafale into IAF also represents the strong ties between India and France” —Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of India
The Minister emphasised that India and France have a lot in common as two of the great democracies of the world. We look forward to enhancing our bilateral relationship even further. “Both the nations are committed to strengthen the universal principals of ‘Liberty’, ‘Equality’, ‘Fraternity’ and ‘the world is one family’. The special strategic partnership between both the nations has become stronger with time and a vibrant defence cooperation has developed.”
He also added that our relationship has taken cooperation to new heights. I am hopeful that the Memorandum of Understandings signed between our countries will benefit economies of both the nations and also create a complete eco-system of aerospace MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) in India.
Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces during her address stated that France will ensure timely delivery of remaining 31 Rafale jets. She highlighted Rafale’s capabilities by stating the meaning that the word holds in French, “Rafale means the ‘guest of wind’ if you would see in a poetic sense and the ‘burst of fire’ in the military sense.”
“Trust me, I know the Rafale is a powerful military aircraft as France uses it to protect its people and we are proud to share our know how with India. France is committed to support the Indian Air Force to touch the sky with glory,” stated the French Minister.
She further said, “Today, is an achievement for our countries. Together we are writing a new chapter in India-France defence ties not only as an industrial and military mission but also of a common vision that the two countries hold. This is a result of immense investments done over decades. Our partnership will be even more crucial in the post-COVID world. India was by our side during the pandemic and we assure that you can count on us.”
The minister also ensured that they are fully committed to ‘Make in India’ initiative, as well as, to the further integration of the Indian manufacturers in their global supply chain. “France supports India’s candidacy for the UN Security Council and is committed to support India for permanent membership in the council.”
Concluding her remarks, Parly added, “I am confident in our ability to come up with new initiatives to renew our partnership. I am confident for our future. It is bright as this sky, as strong as these Rafale, and as bold as our next common enterprises.”
The programme culminated with the ceremonial induction of Rafale aircraft to 17 Squadron through an electronic document presented by Rajnath Singh to the Commanding Officer of 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’, Group Captain Harkirat Singh along with an induction scroll of Rafale fighter jets.
MBDA also sent its congratulations to the IAF on the induction of its Rafale fighter aircraft in India. Attending the induction ceremony in Ambala, Eric Beranger, MBDA CEO stated, “MBDA has built a close partnership over 50 years with India’s armed forces. We are very proud to be equipping the IAF’s Rafales with a full comprehensive weapon package that includes the game-changing Meteor and MICA air-toair missiles and the SCALP cruise missile to conduct deep strike missions in a complex and severe environment.”
Assuring further commitment to timely deliver the Rafale aircraft, Dassault’s CEO, Eric Trappier said, “We are doing our best to deliver Rafale on time. I can understand that this part of the world requires fighter aircraft in order to preserve peace of the country.” He also added that if the IAF would like to acquire more Rafale aircraft, we will be happy to make a new proposal or make repeat order.
After the conclusion of the ceremonial events of the Rafale aircraft induction, the Indian and French delegation also had a bilateral meeting.
The first five IAF Rafale aircraft had arrived at Air Force Station in July. Planned in two stages, the ferry was undertaken by IAF pilots. The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) aircraft covered a distance of nearly 8,500 km from France to India. This was a significant step taken by India in strengthening air power and defence preparedness with the first five Rafale fighter aircraft, built by Dassault, flying out from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France to India. The three single-seat and two twin-seat omni-role fighters were flown by seven IAF pilots and led by Commanding Officer Group Captain Harkirat Singh.The first batch arrived nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to buy 36 of these jets. The next batch is expected to arrive in October, followed by December and eventually all the jets are expected to be delivered by 2021. The Rafale jets, built by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are known for air-superiority and precision strikes on ground targets, making them truly multirole jets.