Five Rafale fighter jets arrive in India – to warn China?
The first five Rafale fighter jets bought from France in a multi-billion-dollar deal landed in India on Wednesday, and the defence minister used their arrival to launch a veiled warning to neighboring China over territorial tensions.
A water-cannon guard of honour greeted the five jets when they landed at the Ambala air base in Haryana state.
India has bought 36 Rafale fighters from France in a deal estimated to be worth $9.4 billion (Dh34.5 billion). All are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021.
An intense nationwide spotlight on the combat jets has been sharpened by a deadly border standoff with China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the jets with a tweet in Sanskrit: “There is no sacrifice like the national defence; there is no good deed like the national defence; there is no practice like national defence.”
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the arrival of the fighter jets marked “the beginning of a new era in our military history”.
The jets will make the Indian Air Force “much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country”, he added in a series of tweets.
“If it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,” Singh said.
Singh did not directly name China, but media and observers said his comments were clearly aimed at the neighbouring giant.
ecurity was tight around Ambala air base for the jets’ arrival, with local residents warned not to stand on their roofs to take photos or shoot video, local media reported.
Indian and Chinese forces have been in a six-week-long standoff on their Himalayan border since a hand-to-hand battle in which 20 Indian troops were killed. China also suffered casualties in the showdown but has not given figures.
The two sides blame each other for the clash in the Ladakh region and have since moved thousands of troops there while pursuing talks that they say aim to ease the tensions.
India acknowledges it is behind China and other key nations in military firepower, and the purchase of the Rafale jets is one of many made in a bid to bolster its 1.4 million-strong army.
New Delhi has also been eager to update its ageing fighter-jet force amid tensions with nuclear-armed neighbours China and Pakistan.
Sameer Patil, an international security studies expert at the Gateway House think-tank, said the jets were a “much-needed capacity booster”.
“It will help India to deal with the heightened nature of the Chinese threat, as it becomes clear that the current territorial stand-off in Ladakh will stretch into the winter months.”
The purchase of the French jets marked a significant shift in India’s traditional preference for Russian defence equipment.
The main opposition Congress party had alleged corruption in the deal but the government strongly denied any misconduct and a top court said there was no evidence for an investigation.
French firm Dassault is in competition to sell more of the jets to India, which has said it will need more than 150 additional combat aircraft for its navy and air force.
July 29: Nearly four years after India signed a €7.87-bn contract with France, five Rafale fighter jets landed at the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Ambala airbase in Haryana state on Wednesday afternoon.
IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria was present to receive them. This is the first imported fighter to be inducted into Service since the Sukhoi-30s from Russia in the late 1990s.
The Rafale gives a capability boost to the IAF with its armaments and comes at a time of ongoing tensions with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
“The touch-down of Rafale combat aircraft in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history. These multi-role aircraft will revolutionalise the capabilities of the IAF,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in a series of tweets.
He said the Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF. “I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the IAF, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,” he added.
Singh said the aircraft has very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors and electronic warfare capabilities are amongst the best in the world. “Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed to our country.”
As the jets entered Indian Ocean, stealth destroyer INS Kolkata deployed in the Western Arabian Sea established contact and wished them happy landing. Later, they were escorted by two Su-30MKI fighters as they entered Indian air space. As the jets landed at Ambala air base they were given a water cannon salute.
The five jets, three single-seat and two twin-seater trainers, were flown from France by IAF pilots, led by Commanding Officer of No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron Group Captain Harkirat Singh. The jets made a stopover at Al-Dafra airbase in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and were supported by French Air Force mid-air refuellers on the first leg of their 7,000km journey.
IAF pilots and technicians have already extensively trained on the jets in France as part of the contractual obligations and the training would continue there for another nine months.
In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) following the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.
The Rafale was originally selected under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender but the final deal got stuck due to differences and the tender was eventually withdrawn after the emergency purchase announced by Modi.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first jet in France last October and the jets have since been used for training there. The delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed so far, of which five will stay back in France for the training mission.
Delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed as per schedule by end-2021. Upon India’s request, France has speeded up deliveries of Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles along with the first batch of jets.
The first Rafale built by Dassault Aviation for the IAF, a two-seater variant, made its maiden flight on October 30, 2018 in France and is designated RB-008 after ACM Bhadauria as he played a major role in the contract negotiations as Deputy Chief of IAF. The RB-008 will also be the last aircraft to be delivered to IAF as all India Specific Enhancements (ISEs) will be validated on it before being incorporated on other jets.
The ISEs include Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search and tracking systems among others. In addition, the Rafale is armed with the Meteor missile — considered a game changer in the region with a range of over 150 km, SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles.
The IAF is also arming the Rafale with HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) medium-range air-to-ground missiles being procured through emergency route.
The Ambala airbase also houses two squadrons of the Jaguar fighters and one squadron of MIG-21 Bison. Hasimara in West Bengal will house the second Rafale squadron. Ahead of the arrival of the jets, Section 144 was imposed around Ambala Cantonment to prevent large gatherings and public were advised not to gather on roof tops. OVER