Rafale Operationalised as Delivery Progresses

India receives the seventh batch of Rafale aircraft, making the total fleet as 24 out of the 36 from the deal

Issue: 07-2021By Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By IAF
(Left) IAF Rafale aircraft touching down at Air Force Station Hasi mara during the induction ceremony on July 28, 2021; (Right) Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, interacting with Rafale pilots of 101 Sqn.

Three more Rafale aircraft arrived in India in July 2021 following a direct ferry from France’s Istres Air Base. The seventh batch reached India after covering a non-stop distance of almost 8,000 km from France. Prior to this, the sixth batch was received in May this year. With the addition of the latest three, the total number of Rafale in the Indian Air Force (IAF) have reached to 24. The first batch of five Rafale aircraft had arrived one year ago in July 2020 at Air Force Station, Ambala, while the latest batch would be based in Hasimara airbase in West Bengal. The new batch of the aircraft will be part of IAF’s second squadron of the Rafale jets. The first five were a part of 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows. A formal induction ceremony of those aircraft was held in August 2020.

While the first batch’s ferry was planned in two stages, covering a distance of nearly 8,500 km, where the French Air Force (FAF) Tanker provided dedicated air-to-air Refuelling support during the flight, in the recent non-stop journey, the aircraft received mid-air refueling by the United Air Emirates (UAE) Air Force.

In April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the purchase of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande during his visit to the country. A deal was finalised when Hollande visited New Delhi to participate in the Republic Day celebrations in January 2016. The arrival of the aircraft comes two decades after IAF first demanded such fighters.

In accordance with the contract, IAF pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault and further batches of IAF personnel will continue training over the next nine months.

The first Rafale fighter was handed over to the IAF in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. India officially accepted that delivery at the French plant where they are manufactured. The delivery of all thirty six aircraft was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. In line with the same, more of the Rafale aircraft are expected to be received in the following months.

CAS, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, along with the senior officers of Eastern Air Command and officers of 101 Sqn during the induction ceremony on July 28, 2021.

“Three Rafale aircraft arrived in India a short while ago, after a direct ferry from Istres Air Base, France. IAF deeply appreciates the support by UAE Air Force for in-flight refuelling during the non-stop ferry,” the IAF tweeted on the arrival of the recent batch.

IAF 101 Squadron

101 Squadron is the second IAF Squadron to be equipped with Rafale aircraft. The Squadron was formed on May 1, 1949 at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this Squadron includes active participation in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars

The Indian Air Force formally inducted Rafale aircraft into No. 101 Squadron at Air Force Station Hasimara in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on 28 Jul 21. Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff presided over the induction ceremony. The event also included a fly-past heralding the arrival of Rafale aircraft to Hasimara followed by a traditional water cannon salute.

Addressing the personnel during the induction ceremony, CAS said that the induction of Rafale had been carefully planned at Hasimara; keeping in mind the importance of strengthening IAF’s capability in the Eastern Sector. Recalling the glorious history of 101 Squadron which bestowed upon them the title of ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor’, CAS urged the personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He said that he had no doubt that the Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.

The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) aircraft comes with the ability to strike air-to-air targets from up to 150 km away and safely hit land targets 300 km within enemy territory, befitting among the deadliest fighter jets flying in the world. The French-made Rafales with “omnirole capabilities” are known for air-superiority and precision strikes, are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

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. The aircraft can carry a range of potent weapons including European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-toair missile, SCALP cruise missiles and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.

Flown by French forces, the Rafale has also been used in operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, Syria, and Greece which received its first Rafale recently.