India chose Dassault Rafale fighter jets over Lockheed Martin’s F-16 used by Pakistan Air Force, Boeing’s F/A-18, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35 and Sweden’s Saab Gripen.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets and flew a sortie in the MMRCA fighter jet from a French airbase in Paris to gain the first-hand experience of the aircraft. Rafale is handed over to Singh on the foundation day of the Indian Air Force. The first Rafale bears a tail number ‘RB 01′, where ‘RB’ stands for Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, who played an important role in negotiations for procuring 36 Rafale jets in the flyaway condition.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles and the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
Importance Of Rafale:
After the Indian Air Force struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in February this year, Prime Minister Modi said, “Rafale fighters could have delivered even better results”. His reference was apparently to the stealth of Rafale, an air-dominance aircraft manufactured by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
Since India was waiting for deliveries of Rafale when the attacks happened, the Indian Air Force deployed a dozen Mirage-2000 aircraft, made by the same company to hit the targets.
Rafale is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that is said to boost India’s air dominance exponentially, currently safeguarded by fighter jets like Russia made Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, along with French Mirage-2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas.
Origin Of Rafale:
Rafale is a French word meaning “gust of wind” and is a French-origin Delta winged, twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured and designed by Dassault Aviation. The initial requirement of Rafale came into light in the mid-1970s, when both the French Air Force and Navy expressed a requirement for a new generation of fighters.
In early ’80s Dassault was formally announced to build aircraft for the French government and the testing started in 1991. The production of the first aircraft series started in late 1992 but was suspended in 1995 due to political and economic uncertainty.
The production was restarted in 1997 after an initial order of 48 aircraft was placed by the Ministry of Defence followed by further order of 59 Rafale in 2004 and 60 aircrafts in 2009.
The French Air Force first operational Rafale squadron, EC 1/7 “Provence”, was stationed at Saint-Dizier airbase in 2006. Along with the French Military including Air Force and Navy, countries like Egypt and Qatar are the current operators of the Rafale MMRCA, while India will join the list this year itself.