Indian Airforce’s ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, which was commanded by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999 will soon welcome the first Rafale combat aircraft in India. "The first unit to receive the Rafale combat aircraft would be the 17 Squadron which was earlier located in Bhatinda in Punjab and will now be shifted to Ambala in Haryana," IAF sources told ANI.
Reports suggest that the other squadron of the fighter aircraft will be based out of Hashimara in West Bengal to tackle the front facing China. Ahead of this, the 17 squadron operated the MiG-21 and is ‘number-plated’ at the moment.
The first Rafale will be handed to the Indian Air Force in September 2019 after an intensive 1500 hours of testing to validate the India Specific Enhancements on it. Hence, the first batch will be ready to be inducted at Ambala around May 2020.
Three years back, in 2016, India signed a deal with the French Government and Dassault Aviation to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for over 7.8 billion Euro to combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on the eastern and western fronts. This plan was, however, scrapped due to land acquisition issues in Uttar Pradesh.
Ambala base has been housing Jaguar aircraft squadrons mainly looking after the Pakistan front but due to rapid deployment capabilities, the planes can be utilised on both the fronts in case of requirement.
(With inputs from ANI)