The first five Rafale fighters, dubbed “game-changers”, were formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday at a glittering ceremony in the Ambala airbase. Defense minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were among the dignitaries who attended the ceremony.

A traditional ‘Sarva dharma puja’, a ceremonial ‘water cannon salute’ to the Rafale jets and an aerial display featuring various breathtaking maneuvers by the aircraft marked their induction into the 17 Squadron of the IAF.

Here is how these Rafales are set to give a major boost to India’s air power capability.

  • Once the Rafales, with their `Meteor’ air-to-air missiles (120-150 km strike range), ‘Scalp’ air-to-ground cruise missiles (over 300 km) and other armaments, are fully-operational, they will certainly be a force to reckon with.
  • The Meteor missiles are arguably the best in the world for air combat duels, with “a greater no-escape zone” for hostile fighters than any comparable BVR weapon. Pakistan and China do not currently have any missiles of this class in their combat inventories.
  • With a combat range of 780-km to 1,650-km depending on the mission, the Rafales come armed with a deadly weapons package, advanced avionics, radars, and electronic warfare systems to prevent jamming by adversaries and ensure superior survivability in hostile contested airspace. Each Rafale can also carry two fire-and-forget Scalp cruise missiles to hit high-value fortified targets well over 300-km away.
  • They will be able to outgun and outrun Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 as well as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters. France has till now delivered 10 Rafales to India, with the other five being kept back at Merignac to train additional IAF pilots and technicians over the next nine months.
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  • “Induction of Rafale jets could not have happened at a more opportune time considering security scenario today. Rafale being based in Ambala is important as the fleet can rapidly access all areas of interest from the air base,” IAF chief RKS Bhadauria said hinting at the ongoing face-off with China at the LAC.
  • But the 13 India-Specific Enhancements (ISEs) or upgrades on the 36 Rafales will become fully operational only in 2022 after undergoing “software certification” after all the jets have arrived in India.
  • The upgrades range from radar enhancements, Israeli helmet-mounted displays and low-band jammers to towed decoy systems, 10-hour flight data recording and engine capability for “cold start” from high-altitude regions like Ladakh. #innlive
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