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Indian Air Force completes first Rafale fighter squadron

The Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) first squadron equipped with Dassault Rafale multirole fighter aircraft is now complete after the final four aircraft arrived at Jamnagar Air Force Station (AFS) in western India on 21 April.

The aircraft, which flew non-stop from Dassault’s facility in Bordeaux–Merignac using in-flight refuelling provided by the air forces of France and the United Arab Emirates, are part of an order for 36 Rafales placed by the IAF in 2016 for EUR7.9 billion (USD9.5 billion).

The recently delivered fighters will be stationed at Ambala AFS in northern India – near India’s disputed border with Pakistan – where they will supplement 14 similar aircraft operated from that base by the IAF’s No 17 ‘Golden Arrow’ Squadron.

Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhaduria, who is on a five-day visit to France until 23 April, had flagged off the four Rafales from Bordeaux-Merignac. At the ceremony the ACM said that by delivering the Rafales “a little bit” ahead of schedule, France has contributed to the IAF’s overall combat potential.

Within the next few weeks Dassault is expected to begin aircraft deliveries for the IAF’s second Rafale squadron, which will operate from Hasimara AFS in northeastern India, close to the country’s disputed border with China. These aircraft are set to be inducted into the IAF’s No 101 ‘Falcons’ Squadron, which will also comprise 18 fighters. Deliveries are likely to be completed by late 2022 or early 2023.

The IAF has been building hangars, bomb-proof shelters, and maintenance facilities for the Rafales at both airbases.

The weapons that will arm the Rafales have already been delivered to Ambala AFS by MBDA and include the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, the MICA short/medium-range air-to-air missile, and the Storm Shadow/SCALP ground-attack cruise missile.

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