India on Thursday inducted its first 5 Rafale fighter jets as part of the 17th squadron at the Indian Air Force base in Ambala, Haryana on Thursday. India received the first set of 5 Rafale jets in July this year out of the contracted 36 from France as per the agreement signed with Paris in September 2016 for Rs 59,000 crore. All 36 aircraft are to be delivered by the end of 2021 as per schedule.
The Rafale jets were built by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation. The 4.5-generation jets are known for their air superiority, dominance and precision strikes on ground targets.
The ceremony at Ambala base included a ceremonial unveiling of the Rafales, a traditional all-faith ceremony and air display by Rafale, Sukhoi-30 MKI and Tejas aircraft. The proceedings culminated with the Rafales’ induction into the 17 squadron.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke at the event, said the induction of the Rafales an important milestone since the tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were heightened though he didn’t name China. The induction of the 5 Rafales into the IAF also represents the strong ties between India and France. Singh said with the induction of Rafale in Indian Air Force, the strategic ties between two countries have also been strengthened.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly, who was present at the induction ceremony, said together India and France are writing a new chapter in defence ties. She said France was fully committed to the Make in India initiative and the further integration of Indian manufacturers in their global supply chain.
Despite Rafale being a 4.5 generation aircraft, China claims superiority over it citing that its J-20 is 5th generation with capabilities to counter the Rafales. While the J-20 was hyped to be a stealth fighter, the Rafale has real stealth features as they are designed for a reduced radar cross-section and infrared signature. Reports said the Rafale can lift loads up to 1.5 times its weight which means it can carry weapons and fuel for far greater capability than the J-20.