They will be the first imported fighter jet to be inducted into the IAF in 22 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 fighters. The first Su-30 entered IAF service in June 1997.
The Rafales will be a part of the IAF’s No 17 Squadron, which is also known as the “Golden Arrows”. The first squadron of the aircraft will be stationed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases.
India will be the fourth country, after France, Egypt and Qatar, to fly the Rafale.
The Rafale fighter jet, however, cannot be compared with the J-20, an indigenously developed fifth-generation aircraft of China. The J-20 is soon set to be inducted in large numbers into the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China after it was successfully developed and displayed.
The 2016 Rafale deal was an emergency purchase to arrest the worrying slide in the IAF’s combat capabilities. The count of the IAF’s fighter squadrons had been reduced to 31 compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war with China and Pakistan.