India is all set for the delivery of five Rafale fighter aircraft as they land at the Ambala Air Force Station today afternoon. Air Force Chief Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria will receive the five Rafale fighter jets, which started their journey on July 27 from France. These three single-seat and two twin-seat Omni-role fighter aircraft will be flown by seven Indian Air Force pilots led by commanding officer group captain Harkirat Singh. Of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. These fighter aircraft will become a part of 17 Golden Arrows squadron.
- Security has been tightened around the Ambala Air Force Base. Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders near the Air Force station ahead of the Rafale's arrival. The order signed by Deputy Commissioner Ashok Sharma says that Section 144, which prohibits assembly of four or more people, has been imposed in the villages adjoining the airbase, including Dhulkot, Baldev Nagar, Garnala and Panjkhora.
- Flying of private drones in the three-km radius of the airbase and shooting of videos or taking photographs of the boundary wall of the airbase and its adjoining areas are also strictly prohibited.
- The Rafale jets will cover a distance of 7,000 km with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop in the United Arab Emirates.
- As per Haryana Home Minister and six-term MLA from Ambala Cantt Anil Vij, the people of Ambala are very enthusiastic and thousands would have come out on the streets to welcome the fighter jets before the touchdown had there not been a pandemic.
- In September 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 Rafale jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore. The purchase was made to further strengthen the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities.
- No. 17 Squadron, the "Golden Arrows", has been resurrected at the Ambala base to operate the Rafale aircraft. The resurrection ceremony in September 2019 was presided over by then Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who had commanded the 17 Squadron during the Kargil conflict in 1999.
- For the deployment of the Rafale squadron, major infrastructure upgrades have been done at the Ambala airbase. The airbase currently has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 Bison.
- France had recently clarified that the timeline finalised for the supply of the fighter planes will be strictly respected amid speculation over delay in the delivery of Rafale jets due to coronavirus pandemic. French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said there will be no delay in delivery of Rafale jets to India.
- The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons, including missile maker MBDA's Meteor, and Scalp cruise missile. While meteor is a beyond visual range (about 150 km) air-to-air missile, the scalp is a long-range cruise missile with a range of 200 km. Both of these missiles can carry out deep strikes against enemy aircraft and targets on land.
- In total, twelve IAF pilots and engineering crew members have received complete training on the Rafale fighter jets.
With PTI inputs