Indian Air Force inducts first Rafales into service

The Indian Air Force (IAF) formally inducted its first five Dassault Rafale DH/EH multi-role fighters into operational service during a ceremony at Ambala Air Force Station (AFS) in northern India on September 10.

In a deal worth €7.9bn, the country ordered 36 examples of the French fighter – comprising 28 single-seat Rafale EHs and eight two-seat DHs – for IAF use in September 23, 2016. The first five examples (three EHs and two DHs) arrived at Ambala AFS from France on July 27, 2020. These aircraft became operational with No 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ during the September 10 ceremony, which was attended by Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, and French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly.

Rafale EH [Indian Air Force]
One of India's first five Rafale fighters on the ground at Ambala AFS in the nation's Haryana region. The initial batch of aircraft were made operational with No 17 Squadron 'Golden Arrows' on September 10, 2020. Indian Air Force 

During a speech at the ceremony, Parly said: “Today is an achievement for our countries. Together we are writing a new chapter in India-France defence ties. We are fully committed to [the] ‘Make in India’ initiative, as well as, to the further integration of the Indian manufacturers in our global supply chain.”

Singh referred to India’s ongoing tensions with China along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in the Himalayas. He said: “Rafale induction is a big and stern message for the entire world, especially to those eyeing our sovereignty. This induction is important considering the kind of atmosphere at our borders or should I say the kind of atmosphere created at our borders.”

The next batch of Rafales for the ‘Golden Arrows’ is expected to arrive at Ambala AFS in October. The squadron will receive its remaining aircraft – comprising 18 aircraft – by mid-2021. Following this, deliveries will start for the IAF’s second Rafale unit, which will be based at Hasimara AFS in India’s West Bengal region.