French Rafale fighter jets were formally inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) today. The first five aircraft had joined the 17 Squadron – Golden Arrows – on July 27. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, French Defence Minister Florence Parly were present at the event.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO also attended the ceremony.
Earlier, a traditional Sarva Dharma Pooja, which involved rituals by priests of various religions, was conducted. This was followed by an air display by the Rafale and Tejas aircraft of the IAF. The Sarang aerobatic team also put up breathtaking manoeuvres during the event. The two sides will be have a bilateral meeting after the induction ceremony.
First major acquisition in two decades: Rajnath – Ahead of the event, Rajnath Singh took to Twitter and said that Rafale is the first major acquisition in the past two decades. “At 10.00 AM tomorrow, #Rafale aircraft will be formally inducted into @IAF_MCC at the Air Force Station in Ambala. The aircraft will be part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”. The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades,” he said.
Since April 2015, when PM Narendra Modi announced the decision to acquire 36 fighter jets from French defence major Dassault, the Rafales have had an eventful sortie. While the original proposal to induct 126 Rafales was sidelined by the government citing strategic needs, the acquisition of the aircraft was mired in controversies when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that there was ‘corruption’ in the Rafale deal. It was only after a Supreme Court blow that Congress stopped making the allegations.
The complete induction of 36 fighter jets is expected to conclude by end of 2021. The next batches are slated to arrive in October and December this year.