India welcomes its 1st tranche of 5 Rafale jets along with 2 Sukhoi Su-30MKI which entered Indian airspace a little post 03:00 in the afternoon which landed one after the other. The first one to be landed was flown by the commanding officer of the 17 Squadron based in Ambala, group captain Jaskirat Singh and were welcomed with a water salute on 29 July 2020.
The landing of five Rafale jets in India’s Ambala after a wait of what, many say, has looked and felt like an eternity, makes it just the right occasion to remember Parrikar, the man under whom the deal to bring 36 Rafale jets to India from France to signed.
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Jets took off from the Merignac airbase in France port city of Bordeaux and arrived here after covering a distance of 7000km with air-to-air refueling and only a single stop in the United Arab Emirates. The jets entered the Indian Air Space were escorted by 2 SU-30 MKI’s, two hours before landing.
India’s Rafale Airpower
The first fleet of 5 jets includes 3 single-seater and 2 twin-seater aircraft arrived in India nearly four years after both countries inked an inter-government agreement to supply 36 of the multi-role jets to the Indian air force (IAF) under Rs 59,000 Crore deal.
All 36 jets are supposed to arrive in India September 2022, for which the ( IAF ) has been reportedly undertaking preparations, including providing the required base and the training of pilots of which a total of 12 pilots have gone for training in France out of which 7 have arrived.
On 8 October 2019, Rajnath Singh defense minister had received the first Rafale during his visit to the Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac and completed a sastra puja marking the aircraft with the promising symbol – ‘Aum’ with the vermillion.
Why India Chose Ambala Air Base?
It is strategically located especially vis-a-vis two neighbors i.e. Pakistan and china, both of whom have fought wars with India. But Ambala’s importance to military aviation goes back even further. It has seen an induction of many new aircraft including the French Mystere, the jaguar, and the MiG-21 Bison Squadron.
After 1947, the Ambala base has written several glorious chapters in India’s military history- from the wars with Pakistan to the conflicts of Kargil to the more recent breakout strike. No.18 Squadron, the only squadron to receive the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award, was based at the Ambala Air Station.
Ambala’s strategic location is useful for conflicts both in western and northern borders, and the base has multiple layers of advanced warning systems in case the enemy decides to target it. Pakistan B-57 bombers targeted the base during the 1965 war, but except for some very minor damage to a non-military structure, it emerged unscathed.
Since the Ambala base already has a solid infrastructure that has been bolstered for more than six decades, there is no need to reinvent the wheel while inducting the Rafales. While offering good strategic reach to India’s borders with Pakistan and China, the Ambala base is also far enough from India’s adversaries to thwart their surveillance gathering attempts.
The second base for the rafale is reportedly being planned at West Bengal’s Hashimara. The rafale jets were welcomed wholeheartedly with several tweets and the strategists call them to be the game-changers. Let’s hope for the best and see what time has to offer us in this so unpredictable geopolitical nature of the world.
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