Ambala: The Ambala Air Force Station, the country’s oldest airbase, will be the home to Indian Air Force’s newest induction, the Rafale. The aircraft flew out from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux and it will cover a distance of nearly 7,000 km with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop in the United Arab Emirates before arriving at Ambala airbase on Wednesday. The history of the airbase goes back to 1919 when 99 Squadron of the Royal Air Force with Bristol Fighters was established here.
Later it willbecame the headquarters of the Royal Air Force, India Command in 1922.From 1948 till 1954, it also functioned as the flying instructors’ school. The base was attacked by Pakistan in the 1965 and 1971 wars. Last year, then IAF Chief BS Dhanoa resurrected the 17 Squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station. Marshal of the Indian Air Force late Arjan Singh had also been in command of the Ambala Air Base as a group captain.Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee, the first Indian commander-in-chief of the Air Force, was also in charge of a squadron in Ambala.
‘GOLDEN ARROWS’ 17 SQUADRON: Rafale will be part of the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron that was commanded by former Chief Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999. The squadron was formed in 1951, and initially, it flew de Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters. The squadron, which operated from Bhatinda airbase, was disbanded in 2016 after the IAF started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin Mig-21 jets. When the first five Rafale jets touch down in Ambala on July 29, they will become a part of the rich history of the Air Force Station and Golden Arrow Squadron.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft. The first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at the Ambala Air Force Station, considered to be one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
RAFALE FIRE-POWER: The Rafale fighter jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets. The Meteor, Scalp and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the Rafale jets. The Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. The Meteor is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official. The Scalp is a deep-strike cruise missile known for having pinpoint terminal accuracy through its highly accurate seeker and target recognition system.
LONG HISTORY OF INDO-FRENCH COOPERATION: India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes the India’s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then Mystere, Jaguars and the Mirages. India had inked 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.