With another batch of four Rafale fighters arriving at Ambala from France on May 19 or May 20, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to resurrect the 101 “Falcons of Chamb” squadron at Bengal’s Hashimara even as advance units have already moved into the new base.
The exact date of arrival in India will be determined after the confirmation from UAE Air Force which would be utilised for mid-air refuelling and weather conditions. It is more likely that the full deliveries of 36 Rafale fighters will be completed before April 2022, which was announced by Union defence minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament, Hindustan Times reported.
The report said that by the end of May, the IAF will have 24 Rafale fighter jets, with another seven kept for training purposes in France and only five more to be handed over before the two squadrons are complete.
The fifth batch of the Rafale aircraft arrived in India in April from France. The IAF did not disclose the number of aircraft that landed in India but people familiar with the development said four jets were part of the new batch.
The last five aircraft will be delivered in the second-half this year as Egypt has also placed an order of 30 Rafale fighters with France.
The home base of second squadron is getting readied at Hashimara with repaved extended runways, ammunition depots, blast pens and personnel accommodation apart from maintenance bays, according to the report. “The Hashimara air base has been totally revamped and should be operational by end of this month. This will be the peace time location of the aircraft but in war times, the fighters will operate from anywhere in the country as per war plans,” an Air Marshal reportedly said.
The first Rafale squadron is based at the Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29 last year.