A new chapter for the Indian Air Force

The formal induction of the first batch of five Rafale multirole fighter jets into the 17 Squadron at Ambala airbase marks a new chapter for the Indian Air Force — the first imported a fighter to be operationalised since the Russian Sukhoi-30s in the late 1990s.  India’s Military prowess and commitment are unquestioned.  Amid the unprecedented border faceoff with China, the arrival of the fighters does provide a boost for military capability.
The new fighters — the first imported jets to be inducted into the IAF in 23 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 jets entered service in June 1997 — will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of IAF, which has for long planned to update its fighter jet force. Nearly four years ago, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets under a Rs 59,000-crore deal to boost the IAF's combat capabilities.
The entire fleet is expected to be in India by 2021-end, going some way toward filling the country’s larger requirement of 126 such jets. It has taken almost 19 years to acquire the new generation fighter jets, a pointer to the painfully slow defence procurement and planning processes.
However, France had handed over to India its first Rafale fighter during a ceremony attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Merignac on October 8 last year. Air and ground crews of the IAF have been in France for almost three years for the management of the Rafale programme.
According to experts, India’s new Rafale fighters will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of the air force and prove to be a game-changer with their advanced weaponry, high-tech sensors, superior radar for detection and tracking of targets and ability to carry an impressive payload.
According to former Air Chief Marshal B. S Dhanoa, “with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) concentrated and on the offensive on a barren Tibetan Plateau, the Indian Air Force with Rafale fighter as its spearhead weapon will decide the outcome of the battle in case the red flag goes up.” The Rafale’s empty weight is 10 tonnes and its maximum take-off weight is around 25 tonnes. Even transport aircraft don’t have that kind of payload fraction. The Rafale can carry a lot of weapons.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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